A wines flavour can vary from one year to another. The vintage year is an important information on the wine label. It may have been made by the same producer, come from the same vineyard, yet you’ll notice a difference in the wine if it was harvested in a different year. Vintage variation affects certain wines more than others. Regions with higher variable weather and cooler climates usually have more variation between vintages.
The Weather and the Wine
Most people don’t acknowledge vintage reports from year to year, they know the wine they like and continue to buy it each year, they may notice that it doesn’t taste quite like the last bottle and maybe even that the year has changed on the label, but beyond those details they press on and stick with the particular wine.
When in reality, the wine could be dramatically different from year to year depending on the weather patterns hitting the vineyards, the harvest time and how a unique micro-climate was affected by both obvious and subtle nuances in the weather. Was it unusually hot this year, but last year they battled an ongoing soggy season? Were there any unusual early or late frosts this year?
Grapes varietals are affected by weather in various ways. The Riesling grape, for example, thrives under cooler growing conditions, and that’s precisely why Germany and Oregon have much of the market cornered on stellar Rieslings. However, if you have a particularly warm, dry growing season, the Riesling vintage could suffer that year and the same producer that offered the Riesling you fell in love with the year before, might not meet prior expectations this vintage and you could be left waiting to see what the next year’s weather will bring to a region and ultimately a vintage.
After a rough weather season you might think all is lost and you’ll just need to stretch your favorite bottles until the next vintage, but that’s where skilled winemakers can really work their magic. If poor weather patterns prevail for a given region, an experienced winemaker can salvage the vintage by employing various interventions and techniques during the vinification process. Whether, the vintner brings the wine around via blending, utilizing different fermentation processes or considers additives – it takes a knowledgeable winemaker to “save” a potentially sour vintage and keep reasonable consistency in a specific wine between vintages.
What about “Non-vintage” Wines?
Most sparkling wines and fortified wines are classified as “non-vintage” wines, because they are typically a blend of various vintages. This blending practice is utilized to try to get a very consistent style of wine from year to year. In exceptional years, a vintage Champagne or vintage Port will debut due to ideal growing conditions and you can expect that these particular vintage wines will garner a pretty penny.
Every year updated vintage charts document the most and least noteworthy wines from a specific region, while these can be cumbersome to maintain in a detailed online format, for those truly interested in delving deeper into various vintages, there are several solid books that will take you on the full excursion through a mighty vintage tour.
When you think of vintage, consider a region’s weather pattern for the specific year and you’ll be on the right track in determining what odds were for or against the wine right from the start.