Vintages and the Weather Effect
A wine’s vintage is an essential indicator of quality and provides a valuable reference point to help choose the right wines. But you don’t need to be an expert to understand how it works.
What exactly does a wine’s vintage mean? It simply authenticates the year in which the grapes were grown and harvested, and it helps determine whether or not a wine should be tasted now or kept to age. Although the vintage is written on the bottle’s label, it is not a guarantee of the wine’s quality.
How does the year affect a wine’s taste? Besides the winegrowers’ know-how and the quality of the soil, it’s essentially the weather that has the most impact on the development of the fruit as it ripens. The taste of a grape grown on the same plot will vary slightly from year to year; it is variations in the weather that largely shape a wine’s actual character.
Over time, improved weather forecasting, greater control of transformation processes and state-of-the-art equipment have reduced the fluctuation between vintages. In order to produce a more consistent wine, producers often choose to offset the effect of a weaker vintage by using acidification or chaptalization methods, or by additional filtering of the wine to soften the tannins.
Despite these difficulties, many small producers do not process their wines and so obtain a product that varies from year to year, reflecting Mother Nature’s moods.
A map or table of vintages will help you grasp a region’s production quality for a given year. But beyond the praise a vintage receives, in the end, its appreciation is a question of personal taste. Building your own cellar remains one of the best ways to enjoy various vintages and to follow the evolution of your favourite Grands Crus.