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Is vintage important when it comes to choosing a bottle of wine?

How to Drink Better: Advances in knowledge and technology mean that there are very few bad vintages nowadays

Q: Do I need to know anything about the year a wine is produced?

A: You will often read or hear wine writers, critics and wine lovers discuss the great vintages of this or that wine they have tasted. A vintage simply means the year in which the grapes were grown.

A vintage or year is defined by the weather patterns that take place during the growing season. The weather can play a role in both the quality of the wine and the amount that is produced in any given year.

In times past, when viticulture and winemaking was nowhere near as advanced as it is today, every vintage was very different. It was all down to the weather. Some of the great wine regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy Rioja and Barolo regularly suffered heavy rains at harvest time, leading to rotten or diluted grapes. Or the sun didn’t shine, the grapes didn’t ripen, and the wines tasted very green and bitter. In warmer areas it could be too hot, and the wines were raisined, overly alcoholic and lacking balance. Areas with less predictable weather suffered most.


The good news is that, for the vast majority of wines, the vintage doesn’t really matter. Nowadays grape growers and winemakers have far greater knowledge and technology at their disposal and rarely make really bad wines. Climate change has played a part too, and most regions have fewer poor vintages, although it is getting a little too hot in some areas. So, you can leave the vintage charts to the wine nerds and be confident that any bottle you pick off the shelves will be from a good vintage.

For investors and collectors of fine wine, vintages do still make a difference. The best wines from the finest vintages will have more concentrated, riper fruit, more tannins and acidity, and better balance than those from lesser vintages. They will age for longer and mature better. The quality of vintages can vary within regions and even from vineyard to vineyard.