Wine experts like to talk about great vintages, but does the year really matter?

How to Drink Better: As with every agricultural crop, some years are better than others for growing grapes

Q. Do vintages really matter?

A. Most of us know a wine expert who likes to talk at length about the great vintages they have consumed and speak in reverential tones about the amazing bottles they have tasted. But does the vintage, the year in which the grapes were harvested, really make any difference?

As with every agricultural crop, some years are better than others for growing grapes. Summers can be wet and cold, or warm and sunny. The latter tends to produce better wines.

However, the good news is that nowadays viticulture and wine making has improved greatly so there are very few really bad vintages. With everyday wines you are unlikely to notice the difference between one year and another. Most wines, white and rosé wines in particular, should be consumed within a year or two, so it is worth checking the vintage to make sure you aren’t buying a bottle that is past its best.


Some wines, such as Champagne, Port and Sherry will not always have a year on the label as they are made from a blend of more than one vintage. This does not mean they are inferior.

Vintages can make a difference in wine regions with a more varied climate. Wine from warmer, sunnier vintages generally taste better, particularly the more expensive wines. Although, broad statements such as “2022 was a great vintage in Bordeaux” ignore the fact that weather conditions can sometimes vary greatly within wine regions and often within individual communes or villages. Treat such comments as generalisations, useful indicators of quality, rather than articles of faith. Remember too that good producers usually make good wine every year and bad winemakers rarely.

Wines from great years will have more concentration, tannins and structure, and will therefore age better than others and develop more complex flavours. Many of these wines tend to be very expensive and of interest primarily to collectors and investors looking to spend a few hundred euro on a bottle.