Vintage (wine)

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A wine - vintage is all the wines of a growth cycle, the ripening period in the corresponding wine year falls. It is irrelevant whether the wine is also bottled stating this vintage or not. Statements about the quality of the annual production are also useful for wine-growing regions in which the majority of production is marketed without an indication of the year, such as champagne or port wine .

The exact calendar definition is used for the exact allocation of wines harvested after the New Year, such as some ice wines . Wines produced in the southern hemisphere have a six-month lead over those in the northern hemisphere.

Most of the wines are vintage , i. H. the grapes from which they are made come from a single cycle of vegetation. It should be noted, however, that in many regions it is permissible to add a small amount of wine from a different vintage than the one indicated, without this having to be noted on the label. The vintage may only be declared on the wine label if at least 85% of the wine comes from that year.

The oldest documented year is a Falerner from the year 121 BC. Christ.

Non-vintage wines

In the EU, naming the vintage on the wine label is only permitted for quality and country wines and is optional. In the case of table wines , however, the vintage is not permitted under wine law . In the case of branded wines in the lower price segment, the naming of a vintage is usually not given in order to suggest a relatively constant product to the consumer without year-to-year differences.

But there are also high quality wines without vintage: Sherry , Port wines of the qualities Tawny , Old Tawny and Vintage Character as well as quality sparkling wines . The sherry is produced according to the homogenizing Solera process , in which wines from different harvests are blended continuously during maturation. Champagne and other sparkling wines as good sparkling wines and sparkling wines are usually prepared by blending of wines from several years to blends together consistent style and quality. The vintage champagne is therefore an exception, although there has been an increased demand for vintage sects and champagnes in recent years.

Even if the vintage is still decisive and value-determining in quality viticulture, the vintage divergences for a large part of wine production have become smaller. Today, wine quality can be influenced just as much by plant protection, quality management and modern cellar technology as by the contingency of the weather.

Years in the strict sense

In the narrower sense, a wine year is the totality of all wines marketed by a country, region or even just one winery , stating the corresponding year . Since this applies to almost all high-quality wines, the attention of the professional world is focused on the vintages in this sense. Typically, most grape varieties produce the best wines in regions where they have difficulty reaching maturity. The weather conditions of the respective vegetation period play a decisive role here, and the differences in the end product are enormous - much greater than with most other agricultural products. However, it is precisely the fact that quality wines cannot be standardized mass products and wine vintages are not reproducible that they are so appealing to connoisseurs. In addition, the later maturation in the bottle is strongly dependent on the year and can only be predicted to a limited extent. The vintages of the top wines occupy the professional world for decades. So-called vertical samples of one and the same wine are used to form a judgment.

The influence of the weather

In addition to the work of the winemaker, the course of the weather determines the extent to which the wine of a vintage can exploit the potential inherent in the grape variety and location. The following factors are important:

  • Early budding without damage from late frosts, so that the growing season is as long as possible
  • Early flowering without interference from excessive rainfall, otherwise the berries ripening unevenly on the same grape
  • High exposure to sunlight without extreme heat
  • Occasional rainfall, as excessive drought can block the development of aromas
  • Stable dry weather for harvest, otherwise rain will swell the berries and rot

A late harvest, however, is no guarantee of the high quality of the vintage. As a rule of thumb, there is 100 days between flowering and harvest.

The importance of the aforementioned factors varies depending on the climate zone. In the cooler climate of the more northern cultivation areas of Germany, a warm summer is decisive, in the south and southwest of France, however, no above-average hot summers are necessary. What matters here is a dry autumn, so that the harvest does not rain at the last moment, as happened in Bordeaux in 1994 . In 1996, on the other hand, beautiful autumn weather after a cool August produced a top vintage.

Top vintages

Top vintages arise when the weather enables the vines to produce particularly expressive wines that are exemplary for the respective growing area and have above-average maturity potential in the cellar.

Vintage tables, which make a comparative assessment of successive vintages of wine-growing countries or wine-growing regions, are very popular. However, tables that refer to countries are only of limited informative value. The problem lies in the fact that widely scattered cultivation areas have different climatic conditions, but must be leveled over all areas considered as a whole.


Wine critics regard 2009, 2007, 2005, 2001 and 1999 as the best Riesling vintages of recent times . For red wines of the vintage 2003 brought forth wines with special fullness and aromatic density, while some Riesling wines turned out to be low in acidity and some gray and Pinot Blanc to rich.

With a damp autumn, the 2006 vintage produced a small harvest and numerous medium to good qualities. The results were weather-dependent and very different in the German wine-growing regions . Above-average qualities of Pinot Noir could be achieved on the Ahr . In the other German wine regions too, the large and first plants of the VDP were able to stand out positively from the general trend thanks to more complex vineyard maintenance.

2007 was a top vintage for white and red with highly ripe Burgundy wines and complex Rieslings typical of the variety. The red wines are rich in tannins and have a good longevity. 2008 produced sleek, elegant white wines with a relatively low alcohol content. 2009 showed a high level of ripeness and balanced acidity in the area average for white wines. In 2010 the yields were low with high acidity.

The best years of the 20th century in Germany are 1911, 1921, 1945, 1959, 1971 and 1975.




The current Bordeaux vintage shows the influence of modern cellar technology on the vintages. Grand Cru wines are becoming more and more independent of the weather. There leads u. a. A strict selection of the grapes with decreasing production volumes leads to very high results even if a year is not climatically optimal, as in 2006. Smaller wineries, on the other hand, are much more weather-dependent and fall in the results and in the ratings of the wine critics compared to 2005. Parker's ratings for 2006 for the Grand Cru are only slightly below those of the previous year, although many critics rate the 2006 vintage as similar to the 2004 vintage.

With the current vintage, a new pricing policy is being implemented for the great wines. Many goods have been sold at prices which, analogous to the valuations, only provide for small discounts to the 2005 vintage, which is estimated to be much higher.


The Bordeaux world of wine waited with eagle eyes for the first larger tasting reports on the current wine from 2005, which promises to be really big: in many areas of Bordeaux everything was just right with the weather conditions. The very experienced German wine merchant Lobenberg awarded the 2005 Bordeaux vintage an unprecedented 99 points. The 2005 subscription promises to be a hot race for the most desirable wines. However, extremely persistent price announcements are also expected; Experts estimate the price expectations for Premier Cru wines at over 300 euros per bottle. The price level could rise even further if the "wine pope" Robert Parker gives individual wines the chance to be perfect later, with the announcement of a range up to a full 100 Parker points .

Good wines from 1988 to 2003

In the Médoc , the 2000s are gradually emerging as the best younger vintage. The 1996 and 1995 are also good. 1990 and 1989 can be considered to be great vintages. The 1988 is more difficult to assess. It is undoubtedly particularly durable and always looks comparatively young. In Saint-Émilion and Pomerol , 1998 and 1995 are rated higher than 2000 and 2001. Before that, 1989 and 1990 stand out. In Sauternes 2001 is probably at the top, but 2003 and 1996 are also excellent. The trilogy in 1988, 1989 and 1990 is terrific.

"Small" and "medium" born between 1984 and 2004

The wines of 2004 are considered to be relatively weak. The hot and dry summer of 2003 produced very concentrated, but atypical wines, the further development of which remains to be seen. 2002 was a vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon that benefited from a lovely late summer. Therefore it is quite good in the Médoc, but only moderate in Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. With the 1999 it is the other way around. The often large 1998s on the “Right Bank” (Pomerol and Saint-Émilion) are contrasted with quite tannic wines on the “Left Bank” (Medoc), which will have to mature for a long time. The regular 1997 vintage is now ripe, albeit not a great vintage. 1994 is a bit critical and very mixed; here there are great differences between the appellations and also individual wineries; an encyclopedia can hardly advise on this. The wines of 1993 are quite similar to 1997, although still in development. Smaller wines from 93 already degrade easily, even if they do not have to be drunk immediately. The same applies to 1992, whose wines are firmer than the following year. 1991 is very often completely wrongly assessed and undervalued; this year turned out to be quite good for the high-quality wineries, but is completely overshadowed by the previous year 1990. Meanwhile, Grand Crus from 1991 are often a positively surprising experience. Before the "trilogy start year" 1988, the born 1987 and 1984 were mostly rated as failures; nothing great has come to light from these years. However, it cannot be ruled out that there are still interesting wines from 1987 among the high-class goods.

Older large vintages

Among the older vintages, in addition to the wines from 1986 that are still very tannin-rich and often still need to mature, the 1982 wine in particular is highly valued, also due to the doctorate that the wine critic Robert Parker granted him. The neighboring years 1981 and 1983 are not to be despised, and the 1985 is often wrongly overshadowed by the famous 82 and 86. About the same thing applies to the excellent 1975 vintage as to 1986, that some really great wines from the Grand Cru League do not seem to have finished their maturation even after more than 30 years and require a wait. Wines from the once grandiose years 1961, 1959, 1955, 1947 and especially 1945 have meanwhile become a certain gamble for a lot of money. Because both the flawless, unmoved storage from a cool, damp cellar and the filling level , as well as, unfortunately, the originality of the ultra-wines that have become eminently expensive in those years have become very significant risk factors. Among the lovers of ancient wines, other vintages, such as the 1928 and 1929, and the legendary vintage couple 1899 and 1900, enjoy deep admiration.

A game almost beyond reality are the attempts to find well-known, good, drinkable wines from excellent years before the phylloxera disaster, in Bordelais the wines before 1875, of which the old fathers said regretfully that it would never be again without the original roots can still give such great wines. For the top plants at the time, for example. For example, an 1870 Château Lafite-Rothschild occasionally calls out five-digit prices.

General assessments

There are two almost diametrically opposed opinions on the "vintage question" among wine lovers of Bordelais wines. One faction initially swears by their favorite wineries, regardless of the vintages, especially in the expensive Grand Cru range of Deuxièmes and Premiers Crus. The supporters of this faction are ready to pay high prices depending on the quality of the year. Other wine connoisseurs also disparagingly refer to them as “label drinkers”.

The other faction is more interested in the really good years. In order to get good wine more cheaply, they prefer the wines of "smaller" goods from splendid vintages instead of the big names. It is claimed in this group that one would rather drink wine from a smaller estate from an excellent year than the subjectively overpriced wines of the "big" names from only moderate years.

If you adjust to the working method and the often recognizable taste profile of individual wineries, you can make amazing observations, which are often due to the composition of the grape varieties: A Premier Cru estate like Mouton is capable of producing and producing fantastic wines in excellent years to market proud prices. In weaker years, the quality of this property in particular drops significantly, which is partly due to the non-use of very spicy, but late-ripening grape varieties such as Cabernet Franc. The wine is then much cheaper, but there are connoisseurs who claim with a certain right that it is still not cheap enough to compensate for the decline in quality.

A lot of wineries vary with the proportions between the large wine and the second wine : in weaker years, an excellent first wine is still made, even if only in small quantities from the very best batches. The large quantities then alternatively go into the second wine. So it holds z. B. the Château Léoville-las-Cases .

In extreme cases, there are wineries that, in bad vintages, completely refrain from bringing wine to the market under their name at all this year. Either the grapes are sold at comparatively low prices to wholesalers who use them to improve other wine batches, or wine is pressed, but this is marketed under a different, cheaper brand name, avoiding the use of the name of the great wine, the "Grand Vin" . The Sauternes winery Château d'Yquem is one of them, and some of the “garage” wineries of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, e.g. B. Le Pin . Instead of the sweet wine, the high-class dry white wine "Y" (pronounced: Igrek) is made from insufficiently sweet grapes at Yquem.


The red wines of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits were outstanding in 2009, 2005, 1999 and 1990. 2002, 1996, 1995 and 1993 as well as 1989 and 1985 are also excellent. The quality of the white wines is not necessarily identical; 2007, 2004, 1996, 1992 and 1989 are the best. The 2005 vintage is considered to be as valuable as the same year in Bordeaux.


For the Syrah wines from Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage in the north of the Rhône Valley, 2009, 1999 and 1990 are considered the best vintages, followed by 1995, 1989 and 2003. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the other southern appellations, 1998 was exemplary, but 2001, 2000 and 1995 are also very good. 1990 and 1989, like almost everywhere else in France, were excellent here too. Among the younger cohorts, 2010 and 2007 are considered large, among the older ones 1981 and 1978.



In the Spanish wine-growing region of Rioja , the vintages are officially classified by the regulatory authority according to their quality, a very practical procedure for wine lovers. There are five quality levels:

Below average - average - good - very good - excellent

The years 2011, 2010, 2004, 2001, 1995, 1994 have been vintages with the predicate “Excellent” in the recent past. These wines are already or are still readily available in stores.

1994 was praised as the “vintage of the century”, but to the surprise of the wine world, it was immediately followed by the equally good 1995. Despite the same classification, the wines of the two vintages differ significantly in character. While the 1994er looks rather angular and should therefore benefit from longer storage, the 1995er is already more pleasing overall and can be described as ready to drink without further ado (these statements primarily refer to Gran Reservas).


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