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Understanding Wine Vintage Charts

The term ”vintage” refers to the year that grapes were grown for making a particular type of wine. The quality of wine produced in a certain region will vary from year to year depending on the climate and weather conditions to which the fruit is exposed before it is harvested. Vintage wine charts help buyers find good years in a vineyard”s production by showing ratings for every year in a certain wine region. A spring frost or particularly wet season can damage a crop of grapes and affect the quality of wine produced; vintage wine charts reflect this information and can help to guide buyers toward favorable years. Accuracy of Vintage Wine Charts Although vintage charts can be a useful source of general information about wine quality, the charts are based on averages and thus there are always exceptions to the rule. In almost any vintage year from any region, there are likely to be both outstanding wines and also some poor quality wines included. Furthermore, vintage charts are compiled by people who may have tastes and predilections that differ greatly from your own. While the charts can be helpful guidelines, in the end, it”s up to your own taste buds to decide whether a wine makes the A-list or gets corked. The Making of a Good Vintage A good vintage yields a crop of healthy grapes that are neither too sweet nor overly acidic. This flavorful balance, based on the ripeness of the grapes produced, is the main determining factor in whether a vintage is deemed worthy by connoisseurs. But what factors produce a yield of healthy, balanced grapes? Climate and weather fluctuations are the primary determining forces. Specifically, weather conditions several weeks before the harvest and also during harvest time can make or break a vintage for a particular year. The last few weeks before harvest are a critical time during the grapes” ripening process, when dramatic shifts in weather can destroy or alter the character of the crop. When it Rains, it”s Poor If it is a particularly rainy season, the grapes will become bloated and lose their flavor, leading to a diluted, tasteless wine. A rainy season also adds to the threat of fungal diseases. Wines from cold, rainy years are likely to have higher levels of acidity. High acidity in wine will obscure the other flavors and create a lower quality vintage. When meteorologists predict rain during harvest season, wine producers are faced with the decision of whether to harvest their grapes early or risk a bloated, flavorless crop. Heat, Frost and Profit Losses On the other hand, a hot, dry year can yield grapes lower in acidity, producing higher quality wines. In most regions, a wine producer”s livelihood is very much tied to the seasons; fine weather will usually increase the market value of wines produced during a year and give them favorable ratings in vintage wine charts. Another risk factor that can alter the success of a harvest is frost. In most Old […]

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Vintage Wine Charts

A wine”s vintage refers to the year that the grapes were picked for its making. Variations in climate and weather conditions effect the quality and taste of grapes harvested from a particular region and influence whether the wine produced that year will be deemed a good or bad vintage. The first vintage wine chart appeared in 1855, inspired by the most prized French wines of the time, those of the Bordeaux region. In an attempt to rate the quality of these wines, critics devised a system based on the reputation of each wine, and this rating often determined the wine”s auction value. Understanding Vintage Wine Charts Today, many critics still utilize charts to rank wines according to their perceived value. Wine vintage charts are a way of grading wines based on a numerical scale, which is usually one to 100, but can also be one to 10, depending on the wine critic”s particular system. The wine is assigned a grade based on its flavor, aroma, the balance of sweetness and acidity and other qualities. Vintage charts are often divided into sections, with wines grouped according to region and climatic conditions. For example, all the wines from the Champagne region of France would be grouped together because they share the same climate. The wines are then ordered according to the year that they were produced. The purpose of vintage wine charts is to provide buyers with ratings for every year in a particular region so that they can make informed decisions when purchasing wine. When unfavorable weather conditions, such as frost or abundant rain, damage a crop of grapes in a region, it will likely translate to a poor rating in vintage wine charts, steering buyers away from a lower-quality purchase. Cons of Vintage Wine Charts Although vintage charts can be a useful source of general information about wine quality, wine chart ratings should not be used as the predominant indicators of a wine”s value. Here are a few reasons why vintage wine charts fall short of offering a comprehensive assessment of wines: It”s a matter of taste: Vintage charts are compiled by people whose tastes and may differ greatly from your own. While the charts can be helpful guidelines, in the end, your own taste buds should be the best judge of a wine”s quality. Ratings are based on averages: In almost any vintage year from any region, there are likely to be both outstanding wines and also some awful wines included. Because of these variations, there are exceptions to the rule in any rating. Quality prevails: No matter how ideal the weather conditions in a certain region, the truth is that some vineyards are not as highly regarded as others. For instance, a wine produced by an experienced vintner in a difficult year will often taste better than a wine made by a less skilled wine producer in a year hailed as having excellent growing conditions. New World wines don”t count: In many regions, harvest years make little difference […]

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World Vintage Charts

“A vine bears three grapes — the first of pleasure, the second of drunkenness and the third of repentance.” With apologies to Scythian philosopher Anacharsis, wine classification has become a bit more refined since 600 BC. Classification systems known as vintage wine charts show ratings for every year in a certain wine region and can be useful guides when buying quality wines. A convenient aspect of these charts is that they also often indicate when to hold and when to drink the wines. Defining a Wine”s Vintage A wine”s vintage refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. It also hints at both the weather conditions in which the grapes grew and the quality of the grapes. Paying attention to a wine”s vintage can be important for the discerning buyer, helping to identify years in which the weather might have had an ill affect on the quality of the grapes. That said, it”s also important to keep in mind that vintage charts are based on averages, so although a vintage may be purportedly bad in a certain region, there may still be some bottles of wine within that year that are of outstanding caliber. You never know, and vintage charts only provide a fair guess at the quality of a wine. Another factor to consider is that there are no set criteria for “outstanding” except the taste buds of the experts compiling the charts. Obviously, tastes differ. How to Use Vintage Wine Charts World vintage charts are usually divided according to regions that share both general climactic properties and soil composition. Wines from the Bordeaux region of France, for example, are grouped together due to their similarities. A vintage chart for this region will then be ordered according to the year of production. Vintage charts also grade wines based on their taste, aroma, balance and other qualities along a point scale. While some charts are based on a 100-point scale, others work within a 10-point system. Oenophiles determined to drink well on the cheap just need to do a bit more research. Many great wines are hidden in years that are sub-par overall. Take some time to cull the vintage charts and you”ll have a head start in finding some real bargains. World Vintage Charts by Region The Bordeaux region of France has long been famous for producing wonderful, high-quality wines. Located close to the ocean, this wine-producing region is noted for its humid climate and moist soil. Its temperate climate, consisting of warm summers and mild winters, allows the winemakers of Bordeaux to produce wine year round. In fact, experts estimate that Bordeaux produces around 700 million bottles of wine each year. Burgundy is another famous wine-producing region in France. Given its distinct climate and soil conditions, the Burgundy region mainly produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Champagne is a renowned French region known to produce its own distinct wines. In fact, the bubbly that we open for New Year”s Eve and other special occasions can only […]

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Rating Italian Wines

Wine grape cultivation occurs in several regions of the world, often at fairly high altitudes and in dry, temperate areas. Humid regions tend to be bad for viniculture because the humidity promotes bacterial growth and disease on the vines. Extended cold periods during the winter can kill the vines. The tropics are also bad for cultivation because their temperatures don”t drop low enough during the winter. Grape vines require a period of dormancy during the winter. Italian Wine-Making Italy harbors some of the best grape-producing land in all of Europe. Almost every region in the country is suitable for a vineyard. There is so much area to grow grape vines on, in fact, that there the country has more than one million vineyards. Many families have handed down their vineyards from generation to generation, and many even do their own wine-making. Some of these vineyards still follow old traditions and squeeze the juices out of the grapes by trampling them. Other vineyards either sell their crops to a wine-maker or pay a wine-making company to produce their wine. These smaller Italian wineries are not limited to wine, but also create their own liquors by distilling their wines. The Grapes and Specialty Wines of Italy Marsala wine comes from the area surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily. This wine is made from a mixture of several different white grapes, and has a deep amber color. Marsala is typically fortified with ethanol, and has quite a high alcohol content. Spumante is a type of sparkling wine that is produced in the northern regions of Italy. After the initial fermentation, Spumante is shifted into a tank for its second fermentation. Champagne is normally shifted into bottles, rather than a tank, for its second fermentation. Sangiovese is a red grape that was originally cultivated in Tuscany. It has a strawberry flavor with some spice to it when young, but ages to have a nuttier oak flavor. This specific type of grape has traditionally been used only by the wine-makers of Tuscany, but its popularity is beginning to spread. Sangiovese is a major component of the Chianti made in Tuscany. Classification of Italian Wine Italy has a system of classification for different classes of wine produced in the area. Two of the classes are for what they call ”table” wines, and two are for quality wines produced in a specific region. Table wines are split into two categories: Vino da Tavola and Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT). The Vino da Tavola is generally from Italy, but it is inferior in quality, or the wine-makers did not follow wine laws. IGT categorization means that the wine is of excellent quality and from a specified region, but the makers did not follow wine laws. The other two of the four classifications are for quality wines from specific regions. Denominazione Di Origine Controllata means that the grapes used in the wine were controlled, and the region is very specific. A wine that falls under the category Denominazione Di […]

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