Vintage: Yes, Karen, It Does Matter

"It shouldn't make a difference."

"It doesn't matter."

"It's not important I just want THAT wine."

"I don't know what happened, this used to be so good."

Yeah, keep going. See, this is one of those topics I shouldn't even have to explain. And it shouldn't take a genius to realize why it's a good idea to where a mask around other people during a virus pandemic.

But, here we are.

A familiar topic, one that many people understand on a surface level, but one that very few people appreciate enough. It is a major factor in the flavour of the wine you are consuming, and it's important you started appreciating it as such.

Remember that summer? How hot it was? Remember how it was 30+ degrees every single day and you were outside the whole time and at the lake and golfing and barbecuing and it was just grand.

And do you remember that other summer? Remember how it literally pissed rain until the middle of July and then barely cracked 20 degrees? You camped under heavy clouds and it didn't warm up until the third week of August at which point the summer was almost over.

Now, imagine during those two summers that you were not somebody whose primary reason for being was to talk about the weather.

Imagine during those summers that you were a budding fruit. Maybe a peach or an apple on a tree. Or maybe a grape on a vine.

Honestly, I almost stopped writing, wrapped up this article, and dove into an icy 6-pack of Red Stripe™ just now. Shouldn't the above comparison be enough?

"Yeah but Steven, how does that make the wine taste any different?"


Doesn't everybody have a grandparent or neighbor somewhere who says, "it was a really bad season for the tomatoes in my garden this year"?


To take the importance of vintage out of your impression of a certain wine is to do at least two things. These are:

1) To assume that wine is a formulated substance that can be repeatedly uniformly and infinitely.

2) To fail to actually taste the wine at all.

Grapes make wine. I think we've got this much nailed down at this point, at least, I am hoping. So, if that is true, it should be safe to assume that if the season during which the grapes were grown was hot, the grapes will taste different than if the season during which the grapes were grown was cold.

Cool? Great.

So, if the grapes taste different from one season (read: vintage) to the next, would it be safe to assume that the wine would also taste different?

Don't answer that.

The greater point here is that when you break down the elements that, when combined, amount to the winemaking process, it all sounds pretty simple. It's a simple, continuous, and confluencing series of cause and effect events.

When people talk about knowing "the basics", instead of talking about the fact that Pinot Grigio merely exists and that yaaa I had it one time at Denny's, this is what they should be thinking about instead. Things that are basic and essential to what makes up a specific wine, one of which is the vintage during which it was grown.

My point is, I don't have to be a wine expert to understand the concept of vintage. Based on that, why would you ever ask if the vintage affected the taste of the wine when you could just think about it for a second? I just want anyone reading this to think a little harder. The knowledge sticks when you do that.

Don't worry, though. I ask stupid questions, too. Not just about wine, but also about other things. I'm just giving you the gears.

That being said, once you understand this basic concept, when you are next at the store and you see the bottle you so desire and there is a 2014 and a 2015, what is your first question going to be?

If you're having trouble coming up with the right one, follow this script:

"I'll take them both."

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