Understanding Wine Vintage


You know wine vintage is a year but exactly what year is it referring to? The year the wine grapes were picked? The year the wine was bottled? The year the wine was put on the retail shelves?

Big reveal: the vintage of a wine refers to the year the grapes for the wine were harvested. For example, grapes harvested this year, 2016, will have a vintage of 2016 even though the wine may require 3 years of aging and you will not see it on the retail shelves until 2019. The vintage date is not required by law to be on the label; however, most wineries include it either on the front or back of the label. Still wines almost always come from a single vintage.

Fortified and sparkling wines, like Champagne, usually tend to be non-vintage meaning the grapes are blended from more than one vintage to keep the wine a consistent “house style.” There are exceptions to this however, on the rare occasion when there is an extraordinary year, and the wine is bottled as a single vintage. This happens maybe three to five times a decade.

Besides knowing the meaning of vintage, why is it important to pay attention to wine vintage? The answer lies in the weather. The weather plays an important role from one vintage to another. What the weather condition is during the year will greatly affect the outcome of a wine – how much rain, cloud coverage, sunlight, fog, etc.   Poor weather conditions are not ideal for a vintage but a good winemaker can take those grapes and turn them into great wine. Excellent weather is a winemaker’s dream and can produce outstanding wine vintages (you will notice this in the price). By paying attention to very good vintages, you can reap the benefit by enjoying very good wine.

The Dish On Decanting

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetWhat does it mean to decant wine? Simply put, it means to transfer wine from the bottle to another container to make it taste better. Not all wine needs decanted, in fact, most doesn’t but the reasons for decanting are worth considering.

Inexpensive wine can have an off smell due to sulphur dioxide when you first open the bottle. Decanting will take away the smell.

Expensive wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo, or Syrah may need tamed. Decanting the wine and letting it rest in the decanter for an hour or more will smooth tannins and round out the wine.

Young wine can benefit from decanting by exposing it to air and coaxing out aromas. Quickly splash the wine into the decanter to move it around. You will immediately notice the wine opening up. Letting it rest in the decanter for an hour or more will release even more aromas and flavors.

Aged wine can benefit from decanting due to the sediment inevitably found in the bottle. Decanting allows the sediment to be separated from the wine. Set the bottle upright for several hours to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom. Completely remove the foil capsule to make sure you can see through the neck of the bottle. Carefully remove the cork. With the decanter in one hand and the bottle in the other, slowly pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter. It is important not to splash the wine while pouring so you do not loose the delicate aromas and flavors that have developed with the age of the wine. Once you start to see the sediment in the neck of the bottle, stop pouring. Those delicate aromas and flavors tend to dissipate quickly with older vintages so enjoy your aged beauty immediately after decanting.

Jesus & Wine

pouring red wine in glasses

In case you’ve ever doubted your (responsible) wine consumption…

The two beverages Jesus drank were water…….. and wine, red wine specifically.

A small amount of red wine was customarily consumed after dinner to kill bacteria, parasites, etc.

Doesn’t that just make your passion for the red stuff all that more compelling!

Oh My Goodness! It’s National Drink Wine Day!


Today is Drink Wine Day!  Pop the cork and enjoy a refreshing glass of Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot, Shiraz, or Zinfandel in honor of the occasion!  People have been producing wine since at least 6000 B.C.  There are dozens of ancient legends about humans who accidentally consumed fermented grapes and became intoxicated, which is probably how wine was first conceived.  Eventually, people began experimenting with the fermentation process.  The methods for making wine spread from the region of Mesopotamia to Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, Spain, and eventually the New World.  Today, over 20 million acres of the earth’s surface are dedicated to growing grapes for wine.
source:  http://www.punchbowl.com/holidays/drink-wine-day

Which Type Are You?

Have you ever wondered about the shapes of wine bottles? Are the different shapes random happenstance or are they part of a great plan?  Believe it or not, the shapes of wine bottles are actually well calculated to match the styles of specific wines.  If you love burgundy wine, then your bottle type has sloping shoulders and a tall appearance or if you love bordeaux, then your bottle type has straight sides and high shoulders.

This little bit of trivia can give you ease in spotting your preferred bottle…which can come in handy the next time you and your fellow wine shopper are both going for that last bottle of bordeaux!


graphic from: http://www.lewineoil.com/

Official Wines of the Olympics

This Olympics is epic in that it is the first time in history the games have their own official wine.  UK wine merchant Bibendum was given the job of selecting the wines – a white, a rose and a red.   The decision making didn’t come without controversy as the commercial director insisted the wines be from the 2012 vintage to avoid having confusion of the vintage date and 2012 Olympic date both on the bottle.  In addition, since the wines would be available in event areas, they had to be contained in recyclable PET bottles and the alcohol level had to be lower than normal to promote responsible drinking (11.5% instead of around 13%).

To make the deadline, the wines had to be from somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere and the grapes had to be picked early by a couple of weeks.  For the white that meant the potential of too much acidity and green flavors.  To overcome this winemakers fermented the wine with yeast strains from sauvignon blanc to enhance the aromatics knowing full well the wine would be drunk soon, age-worthiness not being a factor.

So what wines made the cut?  The white and rose are from Stellenrust, the largest Fair-trade wine estate in South Africa located in the oldest, most respected region of Stellenbosch.  The white is a Chenin Blanc that is easy drinking with tropical notes and just a hint of acidity.  The rose is a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz and Merlot.

The red is from Seival Estate in Brazil, a nod to the 2016 Olympics.  It’s a blend of Shiraz and Tempranillo with a dash of Gamay Nouveau to keep the otherwise earthy wine vibrant and lively.

If I were lucky enough to be at the Olympics, I’d have the white while watching beach volleyball, the rose while watching swimming and the red while cheering on the gymnasts.

Go Team USA!

Wine & War

Members of the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, patrol a grape vineyard with members of the Afghan National Army in Char Shaka, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on April 28, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Justin A. Young). Picture from www.wineeconomist.com

I was reading an article on www.wineeconomist.com by Mike Veseth. He pointed out how human conflict sooner or later reveals itself in wine. I find this thought-provoking –  history has shown us this reality and it is certainly present today whether across borders, states, or even AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).

Mike went on to explain a really neat program formed by Michelle Moyer.  Michelle is a statewide viticulture extension specialist for Washington State University and has created a presentation for the national extension Grape Community of Practice (GCoP) specific for troops fighting in Afghanistan.  The presentation gives troops a crash course in vineyard production teaching them everything from what a vineyard in Afghanistan may look like (often quite different than the neatly manicured vineyards of Napa), to how to grow grapes, to the potential fungal threats on the Afghan vines.  The presentation takes particular care to educate troops on the delicate issues specific to the country such as water rights, etc.

I’m glad to read that even in time of war, vineyards are a catalyst to bringing harmony and hopefully peace to countries who are in need of a ray of hope.

If you’d like to read the entire article, click on the link above.