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07.15.2016 Understanding Vintage & Aging
Shuffling through the wine shop- we restock, we straighten, and above all, we check vintages. So- it may seem basic, but here we go: What’s in a vintage?
The vintage on the bottle is the year that the grapes were in the vineyard. That eventual fermented juice could spend a few years in a barrel, but the vintage will not change when it is bottled. Some regions have aging requirements on the label to inform the consumer how long it was in the barrel (for example Crianza in Spain or Riserva in Tuscany) and some do not. And then, then there is non vintage (NV). This is when a winemaker decides that blending of two or more years produces the results s/he wants. It is found most often in fortified or sparkling wines such as Champagne and ports.
Most wineries have their style for their wine and do their best to keep that mark. Why does it matter if one year is different or not and what would make it any different? Well, crafting wine is not the same as making legos. Winemakers cope with the weather, which (as we know in Seattle) is more variable than one might expect. As much as winemakers desire to hold true to their style, each year has a challenge. For those of you that enjoy visiting wine country, you have heard the stories- and every year has them!
- Early frost, or surprise frost for that matter
- Hail as seen this year in Chablis and few years ago in Piedmont
- Over the top temperatures (2015 California)
- And even a simple rainy finish prior to harvest can create watery juice...