People who are not well versed in wine history usually share a common misconception about Vintage Wine. They believe the notion that because a wine has been labeled as a vintage wine, that it is better quality and taste. In the wine industry, a vintage wine is a wine that has been made by grapes grown and collected from one particular season.
The idea may have originated from the producers of Vintage Port in who make ports based off grapes from certain years, which are later analyzed and the ‘good years’ are then decided. These ‘good batches’ are then labeled as ‘Vintage Ports’ by each winery, indicating a particularly good batch.
Vintage wines do share some aspects of the labeling but it is not exactly the same. Like Port, Vintage wines are made using only the grapes from a particular year, however this does not guarantee that the wine will be of higher quality. The usual practice is for the wine to be released and wine critics to discuss and decide over which wines are of high quality over time.
To add to this, Vintage wines do not actually have to be 100% produced from grapes from that year. In areas such as Chilie and South Africa, Vintage wines can consist of 75% grapes from that year and up. Vintage wines from the U.S, Australia, New Zealand and European Union have the bar set at 85% and higher.
Non-vintage labeled wines are free to use grapes from harvests including two years or more. Wine makers seeking to produce wines that retain consistent styles of wine over the years use this method.
There is still heated debate in the wine community as to whether vintage is still a relevant and accurate gauge of quality, with one side arguing that good seasons produce riper and better tasting grapes, while the other side that modern farming methods and controlled irrigation have now rendered vintage stamping obsolete.
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