What does "vintage" mean and how important is it?
A few years ago many stores were citicized for placing reviews of wines next to wines from the same winery, made with the same grape, but with a different vintage. What was the big deal? Why were buyers and vintners critical of this practice?
Vintage, also known as vendange, indicates the year in which the grapes were harvested. A vintage of 2002 means that the grapes were harvested in 2002. Because growing conditions change each year, the qualities of the wines will be different.
The climate for a year depends upon the amount of rain, sunshine, heat, wind, and humidity that the grapes received. Then there are factors controlled by the vineyard. Did they change fertilizers? How was pruning done that year? Was the vineyard over irrigated? Each of these factors will influence the quality and yield of a vintage. The results can either be wonderful, abysmal, or so-so vintages.
Vintages can vary greatly among the world's different wine-growing regions. Did torrential rains hit Oregon and effect the tempramental Pinot Noir grape. That same year may have had the perfect growing season in Burgundy, France. The quality of the Pinot Noirs from Oregon may be reflect the climate problems. But, this is where the skill of the vintner comes into play. By selecting particular grapes from that harvest, a vintage can be turned into something wonderful by the wine maker.
As you can see, the vintage of 2000 can be dramatically different than the vinatage of 2001. Wine buyers should know what they are buying. Placing a review of one vintage next to another vintage can mislead the buyer.
It is important to remember that vintages are more important for the wine maker than the average wine drinker. Many wineries are in regions of great consistency and have striven for dependable flavors, minimizing yearly differences. Vintage is an important part of the wine making process, but it is only one part.