What Is Vintage Wine?

Young couple reading wine label while choosing wine at the supermarket

In the world of wine, you will encounter many terms. One of the most puzzling, particularly to wine drinkers who are not wine collectors or investors, is the notion of vintage.

A vintage wine is quite different than a vintage piece of furniture, artwork or jewelry. In the case of the latter, “vintage” refers to an object being old or from a bygone era. In making and selling wine, “vintage” refers to the year of the grape harvest.

To help you get a clearer picture of vintage and non-vintage wine, read on for some helpful tips.

What Makes a Wine Vintage Versus Non-Vintage?

New wines are produced every year. However, winemakers do not always use grapes from that year to produce varietals. Instead, they may choose to use grapes from many harvests to create a consistent product that is labeled non-vintage wine or “N.V.”

On the other hand, a winemaker may want to ensure that the grapes used to produce a wine have come from one year’s crops, such as 1996. As long as the wine contains the appropriate percentage of grapes from a single harvest, the wine can be labeled as vintage. What is the percentage? Depending on the area of the world, anywhere from 75% to 95% of the wine must be made using grapes from one crop or harvest.

Do Vintage Wines Taste Different Than Non-Vintage Wines?

Generally speaking, a vintage wine matters because it is likely to have a specific character or signature flavor. This is because the overall tone and traits of the wine hearken back to what happened to the grapes during the growing season. Deciding what is a good vintage wine will depend on your preferences for these unique characteristics.

If you were to drink vintage wines shortly after bottling, you might miss the complexity of the beverage. Allowing the wine to age would uncork plenty of undertones and overtones that would flesh out its character. For this reason, many wine collectors wait decades to taste certain vintages, as they realize the ripening process will produce exquisite and heady results.

Is It Worth Buying Vintage Red and White Wines?

Price may differ between some vintage and non-vintage red and white wines, such as vintage ports versus non-vintage ports. On the other hand, some vintages can be quite affordable. Your goal should be to unearth wines that you would love to try or want to gift.

You may want to steer clear of grabbing vintage wines if you just want a wine to open immediately for drinking with dinner. However, if you are willing to give a vintage wine a little more time to mature, or if you want to invest in a particular vintage to celebrate a milestone occasion, go for it!

Like all wines, vintage wines have their time and place at the tasting table. Many factors come into the picture in determining what makes a good vintage wine, including your individual preferences. To get a better idea of the wines available on the market today, check out vintage and non-vintage options from Bordeaux to Merlot at Marketview Liquor.