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Vintage vs Non Vintage - What's the Difference?
There are so many things that go into making a wine special, with one of the biggest factors being the vintage. We talk about terroir and quality of grapes, but none of that necessarily matters unless the vintage has great weather throughout the year.
When we hear the terms Vintage and Non-Vintage, it is usually in a conversation relating to sparkling wines such as Champagne, but can also be used when referring to fortified wines such as Port.
First we will talk about vintage wines, which make up most of the wines in the world. This means that the wine is labeled with the exact year that the grapes were grown. Most still wines are made every year and are labeled with the vintage that the grapes were harvested in. When it comes to Champagne and Port, most producers will only make a vintage wine from grapes that had optimal growing seasons. They will designate the vintage as superior and make a specific wine only from those specific grapes. This is why you can’t find a vintage of Dom Perignon or Dalva Vintage Port every year. When making vintage wines, they will be unique every time they are made and can vary somewhat from one vintage to another. The climate in an area is never the same throughout the entire growing season and the slight nuances and flavors in the wine will be different from year to year.
When talking about Non-Vintage wines, we are referring to blends of multiple vintages. This means that a producer will take leftover wine from a few previous vintages and then blend it all together before bottling the wine. There is one main benefit to making wine this way: consistency. When you buy wines like Veuve Clicquot, you can guarantee that it will taste either the same, or extremely similar to the last time you tasted it. When it comes to Port, the wines labeled as “10 year” or “20 year’ means that the wine is made from a mix of grapes from different vintages that would taste similar to a Port of that vintage (For example, a 20 year Port will be made from a blend of grapes that would mimic a 2001 vintage Port, with the youngest grape used being 20 years old.)
In the end, what it comes down to is taste preference. If you want to drink wine that tastes the same every time you open it, grab a bottle of something Non- Vintage. If you are okay with a new flavor profile and want to try to taste every little detail from the terroir and grapes, grab a Vintage bottle. There are phenomenal wines in both styles - the trick is just finding something that appeals to you!