Why are vintages different?

When I buy anything else, I expect it to be the same as the last time I bought it. I want milk to taste the same every time. I want juice to taste the same each time I buy, and I expect my fruit to taste the same.

So why do different vintages of wines taste different each year?

FYI: Vintage refers to the year the grapes were harvested

These people grow the same grapes on the same land and use the same process to make the wine, so it makes no sense.

Well here is why:

The harvesting process is unpredictable, because of the weather. Imagine being a gardener and you want your grapes to grow, but its way too hot, and then you get a heat blast and no rain, and then it’s too much rain. This created a fungus that killed half your grapes. Then your grapes finally get to a decent size and ripeness, but the wind is uncontrollable and a bunch of them fall off the vine. Also any frost = bad news.

Some places that harvest grapes are prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, and then all your grapes die. 😦

I really wanted to take up gardening next summer, but it seems like a lot of work and disappointment. I grew three jalapeños last year and eating them was fulfilling and sad at the same time. Maybe terrariums are more my thing.

If it’s too hot, the grapes ripen too quickly. This means a high sugar content and a possibility of the tannins not being ready yet.

A couple of weeks of rain and cold weather could cause dilution, or rotting grapes.

But, what is bad for some grapes can be great for another! A cooler summer, which is bad for red wine grapes can create crisp acidity in white wines.

Wines that come from these places often have the most vintage variations:

  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Oregon
  • Northern Italy
  • Chile

Bad vintages aren’t always a write-off. Aging wines can sometimes make your wine mature and ready for drinking. The winemaker plays a huge part in this.

Places like California, where the weather is consistently good have very little vintage variations. Try a couple different vintages from a place like France and see if you can taste the difference!



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