The vintage date on a bottle of wine is an indication of the year in which the grapes were grown. This means the vintage year is an indicator of a wine’s personality if you will as the differences in temperature, rainfall and humidity will dictate the character of the grapes – the raw material the vintner has to work with. A winemaker, like a great chef, might make adjustments and changes to the recipe used to make a wine depending on the qualities of the grapes harvested in different vintages.
Many people wonder why the vintage date found on fine wine bottles is so important. The simple answer is that the foundation for the flavors of a wine have to be grown into the grapes. This means each year the wine carries the “imprint” of the year it was grown in terms of the flavor profile and the raw materials the winemaker is given to work with. This is the dance of the vintner with the vintage. Some grape varieties and styles are more consistent year in and year out but fine wines are at the whim of mother nature. Even differences in the weather during the dormant period of winter can affect the timing for the vines emergence in the spring and thus impact the balance of flavors for a particular growing year.
Wine lovers can learn to savor the character of each individual vintage and also to celebrate the diversity that nature provides from year to year. Wine is indeed a product of the land and with that subject to the whim and fancy of mother nature. The winemaker is there to guide the fruit through fermentation and put their own imprint on the finished product. It is all a part of the fascinating relationship between the grape grower and the winemaker who work in concert to provide you with the magical qualities of great wine.