The term vintage refers to the year that fruit was grown for making a particular type of wine. Despite its mystique and privileged associations, wine is like any other agricultural product in that it can vary greatly in quality, depending on climactic conditions in the region where its ingredients are grown. A vintage wine chart shows ratings for every year in a certain wine region. The rating provides an estimate of the vintage”s reputation. By reading a vintage wine chart, you can tell the best years for different types of wine.
A Good Vintage
A good vintage produces an average yield of healthy, ripe grapes, with a good balance between sugar and acid levels. The weather several weeks before and during harvest time can determine the difference between a good vintage and a bad vintage.
During this time, the grapes need to finish the ripening process. If the region experiences rain, the grapes will bloat, risking dilution of the wine and encouraging fungal disease. If meteorologists predict rain, wine producers must determine if they should harvest early or risk waiting.
This decision can determine the quality of the harvest. Wines from hot years tend to be lower in acidity, a critical factor in shaping a wine”s quality and market value. Wines from cool, rainy years tend to be high in acidity. Acidity masks a wine”s flavors and deteriorates the quality of a wine. Wine vintages matter most in high-quality or estate-grown wines.
Vintages Are Generalizations
Keep in mind that a vintage wine chart is based on averages. While a wine rating on a vintage chart may indicate otherwise, some horrible wines may still come out of “good vintages,” just as some outstanding wines can come from poorly rated vintages.
Other Critical Times for Wine
At the start of the growing season, there is a risk of frost in many regions; during the flowering period the potential size of the crop is determined.
New World Wines: Consistent Products
In many regions, the year of harvest makes little difference to the quality of the wine. This is especially true of New World wines, those regions new to winemaking. For example, in Australia, California and Languedoc, the favorable climactic conditions lead to steady wine output year round.
Wine connoisseurs, however, have criticized New World wines because winemakers in these regions often make a full range of wines on one plot of land. In many regions in France, on the other hand, wineries focus their production on just a few varieties that best suit the soil.
Furthermore, because of industrial winemaking methods and technologies, some wines taste the same, with high alcohol content and a ”fruit bomb” taste. These wines vary little between vintages.
Vintage Wine Charts
Despite the fact that vintage wine charts are based on generalization, they remain a helpful tool for buyers seeking to select wines from a specific year.
Vintage charts can also provide information about the keeping properties of wine and when it is best to drink or hold each vintage. Not all vintages can be assessed immediately. Certain types of wine, like red Bordeaux or Port, require at least two years before their properties can be determined.