Is a wine’s vintage important? And, if so, why?
Well, it kind of is. Reasons are numerous, but it basically comes down to the fact that the weather conditions that grapes grow in can vary substantially from year to year. This, of course, goes on to affect the wine that is made from them.
What makes a good year good (& a bad year bad)?
A good year tends to mean that weather was balanced. Temperature needs to remain relatively moderate, it shouldn’t rain too much, etc etc. The weather should remain relatively constant and relatively pleasant while the grapes are ripening.
Basically, if the weather remains moderate through the season then the grapes will ripen steadily and evenly. Even small fluctuations in weather can affect the process. And mother earth is a volatile mistress, you know.
Bear in mind that a bad vintage year in one region can be a solid one in another. Also, more interestingly, a bad year for reds can be a good one for whites. Hot vintages can yield the sorts of robust, heavy reds that some people adore, with cold weather being less than optimal. When it comes to whites, though, a cold vintage can lead to the kind of acidity that is often highly prized.
How much does it matter?
That depends. As wine making is a natural process and even slightly different conditions can, as we’ve explained, affect how it tastes then it matters a lot. Of course, there are winemakers involved too, which means that wines from what are generally accepted as “bad vintages” can be salvaged and made decent with care and skill.
Whether it matters more than just affecting the quality of the wine depends on how deep in to the world of wine that you want to go.
If you really want to follow wine, getting a handle on vintages is one of the handiest ways to remember in more particular detail which wines you like and which wines you don’t.
It also allows you to know things like, for example, whether to give another chance to a winery that has left you unimpressed in the past. If you tried a 2009 wine from a particular winery and didn’t like it, you might try their 2010 and be pleasantly surprised; not noting the vintage at all might persuade you to write off the winery entirely.
So there you go; a very (very) simplified look on why you might want to check those four numbers on the bottle!