The biddies turn to what makes a good vintage, and how you can make sure you’re buying a good wine. Tune in to learn about good years, bad years and a nifty wallet size print out so you can buy good vintages on the fly.


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Wine Folly, Wine Vintages & Why They Matter (Sometimes)

Decanter, What Makes a Great Vintage?

Wine Investment, What Makes a Good Vintage?

Download: Wine Spectator Vintage Chart

Image Credit: Wine Folly

Study Notes for What’s In a Wine Vintage:

*Please note some of these lines might be directly taken from sources noted above.

VINTAGE: the year in which the grapes were grown and harvested, not the year in which the wine was made or released

  • Northern Hemisphere – growing season is April to October
  • Southern Hemisphere – October to April 

NON VINTAGE: multiple years blended together

  • Different grapes prefer different climates and growing conditions so a good vintage for one varietal or region does not mean every wine from that year from every grape and every 
    • Ex: Riesling does well in sunny spots with cool nights and Cabernets need hot and dry climate

What Defines a Good or a Bad Vintage?

  • The defining feature of a vintage is sunshine
  • Sunny days give grape the best chance of reaching full maturity and optimum ripeness levels
  • If a region receives too much rain and clouds, grapes do not fully ripen and may be more prone to rot and disease
  • However, if the region is too hot (too many days above 92) then grapes become raisinated and the wines could be flabby or have bitter tannins

How Weather Affects a Vintage By Season

  • Spring: Frosts are common in semi-continental climates (Burgundy, NY) and can destroy crops before they even flower
    • Hail storms can break off flowers and buds reducing the vintage’s size
    • These do not reduce quality unless they greatly reduce the length of the growing season
  • Summer: Wet weather during the summer can cause fungal disease
    • Drought and exceptionally hot weather causes the vine to pause their growth until cooler weather returns
  • Fall: Rain at harvest swells grapes causing them to lose concentration or rot
    • Cold weather slows grapes from ripening

When Vintage Matters More

  • Wines from Intermediate Climates:
    • These areas have less predictable growing regions (France, Northern Italy, Northern Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Chile, Austria)
  • & When it matters less:
    • Wines from predictable climates like Central Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Australia, California, Southern Italy since they all produce a more consistent style from year to year
    • Wines for Large Producers

6 Critical Factors to Produce Great Wine (According to Decanter)

  1. An early and rapid flowering and a good fecundation assuring a sufficient yield and the hope of homogeneous ripening
  2. Sufficient hydric stress at fruit set to limit the growth of young berries and determine their future tannic content
  3. Cessation of vegetative growth before color change 
  4. Complete maturity of the grapes
  5. Good weather
  6. Cost of Operations