Want to discover more about vintage wine and add the best vintages to your collection?
Considering the wine’s vintage is extremely important, especially if you’re a wine collector.
It could mean the difference between a mediocre $100 bottle and an exceptional $3,000 wine with a 100-point score from critics. Wines from some of the rarer vintages even get sold out years before release.
But what exactly is vintage? When should you choose vintage wine over non-vintage? Which are the best vintage years to look out for when you buy a wine?
Even though vintages might seem confusing at first, they’re pretty easy to understand once you know the basics. In this article, we’ll find out all about it and explore some of the best vintage wines (by region) to buy in 2021.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links below to go to a specific section)
- What is a Vintage Wine?
- What is the Difference Between Vintage and Non Vintage Wine?
- Is Vintage Wine Better Than Non-Vintage?
- What is a Good Vintage?
- When Should You Consider the Vintage When Buying Wine?
- What is a Vintage Chart?
- Best Vintages to Buy in 2021 (by Wine Regions)
- Best Wines to Buy in 2021 from the Best Vintages
- Chateau Latour Pauillac 2011, Bordeaux
- Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru 2015, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy
- Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage 'Cuvee Cathelin' 2009, Northern Rhone
- Benjamin-Louis - Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Asteroide 2012, Loire
- Dom Perignon Rose 2008, Champagne
- Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Barolo Riserva 2006, Piedmont
- Ornellaia Vendemmia d'Artista Special Edition Bolgheri Superiore 2010, Tuscany
- Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita Velles Vinyes 2005, Catalonia
- Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2010, Mosel
- Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992, Napa Valley
What is a Vintage Wine?
The wine vintage (or the year on your wine bottle) identifies the year in which the wine grapes were harvested. It has nothing to do with the year the wine was released in the market.
A single vintage wine is simply a wine produced with grapes from a single harvest year or a single crop. To be labeled “single vintage,” the wine must comprise 75-95% of the same grape harvest - the percentage will vary within that range depending on the wine region.
What else does the wine vintage signify?
The wine vintage can give you more insights into the weather conditions and grape growing season. These factors are crucial for the wine’s quality, flavors, and aroma and can help you make the right wine selection.
That’s why in wine regions with unstable weather (like Sonoma, Napa, Willamette Valley, Portugal, Cote de Beaune, and Sauternes), the vintage is quite important, especially for single vineyard wines.
Ideally, a vintage with warm and balanced weather will produce fully ripe grapes and better quality wine, while a vintage of bad weather and temperature extremes can lead to a wine of lesser quality.
That’s also why some of the best vintages from wine regions with changing climate can command some of the highest prices.
Wines made with different grape varietals can also be labeled as vintage, as long as all crops are harvested within the same year.
But what about non-vintage wines?
What is the Difference Between Vintage and Non Vintage Wine?
Non-vintage wine is a wine made with grapes from different vintages (sometimes two or more harvest seasons.) Such wines do not have a year on their label, or they’ll simply be identified as N.V. (non-vintage), which is the case with most sparkling wine bottles.
Winemakers prefer bottling non-vintage wine to preserve a consistent wine style and achieve the right flavors and wine characteristics year after year. This makes the winemaking process more reliable on the craft of the winemaker rather than the weather conditions. So, as enthusiastic wine drinkers, you can definitely find some great non-vintage wines too.
Is vintage wine better than non-vintage?
That depends on what you’re looking for.
A vintage wine gives you an experience of a specific wine region’s terroir and the qualities of the grapes harvested during a single year.
Non-vintage wines are more balanced and are a great choice for wine drinkers who want to try a blended wine from a few grape varietals and different growing seasons.
What is a Good Vintage?
A good vintage is determined by the quality of grapes, which in turn is influenced by the growing season's weather conditions, sunlight exposure, and temperature.
For example, if the weather is too cold, the fruit might not ripen fully and can even develop fungal diseases. If it’s too hot, with lots of sun exposure and high temperatures, the grapes will ripen prematurely and result in a wine with bitter tannins and a flabby texture.
At the same time, certain weather conditions can be good for some grape varietals while bad for others. For example, grapes that enjoy cooler climates are:
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
Some others thrive in sunnier vineyard locations with dry weather:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
When Should You Consider the Vintage When Buying Wine?
Here are the cases in which you should check the vintage of the wine:
- Buying wine from wine regions with unpredictable weather: Regions like Northern France, Northern Italy, Germany, Austria, Chile, or New Zealand have varying climates from year to year, making certain vintages much better than others.
- Buying wine for your wine collection: If you’re a wine enthusiast and a wine collector, buying outstanding wine vintages can add significant value to your wine collection. Bottles from different vintages will ensure you have a well-rounded investment portfolio.
The most superior vintages tend to have the perfect balance of tannins, acidity, and texture, creating an iconic wine that will last for years (sometimes decades depending on the wine style and brand.)
- Having vintages from the different wine regions and grape varietals also expands your appreciation of specific geographic locations, climates, and how they affect the fruit. This will definitely add to your wine selection skills.
If you’re wondering how to identify which wine vintage is successful for a particular wine region and grape variety, you can refer to a vintage chart.
What is a Vintage Chart?
Vintage charts summarize the quality and characteristics of different vintages. It gives you ratings for each vintage, illustrating how well the wines will mature and the wine quality to expect from the region.
Besides the wine region and wine style, the vintage chart also has the following components:
- Ratings: Wine critic ratings reflect the vintage quality. For example, wines in the 100-96 rating range are “Extraordinary”, and those in the “95-90” range are “Superb”.
- Maturity: This component helps you understand whether you should drink or store a given vintage. For example, “Hold” means you should store your fine wine and wait for it to develop fully. If it indicates “At peak maturity,” you can uncork the bottle right away and enjoy your wine!
Next, let’s see some of the top-performing vintages for some of the most famous wine regions.
Best Vintages to Buy in 2021 (by Wine Regions)
Here are some of the top vintages to look out for in 2021:
So, which are some of the best vintage wines you can get your hands on?
Best Wines to Buy in 2021 from the Best Vintages
We’ve selected 10 of the most outstanding wines you can add to your wine bar or investment portfolio:
1. Chateau Latour Pauillac 2011, Bordeaux
One of the best vintage wine bottles, the 2011 Chateau Latour delights with its freshness, ripe tannins, and bright acidity. On the palate, it has oak hints and a juicy blackberry flavor.
The 2011 vintage in Bordeaux surprised with warm weather at the beginning of the growing season that transitioned to cooler summer temperatures.
Price of Chateau Latour Pauillac 2011, Bordeaux: $734
2. Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru 2015, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy
This outstanding Burgundy red wine has elegant notes of cherry and mocha. The wine has a velvety texture and well-balanced tannin levels, and ripeness.
The cool spring and hot summer of 2015 created the perfect conditions for some of the most exquisite and lush Burgundy reds.
Price of Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru 2015, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy: $99,361
3. Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage 'Cuvee Cathelin' 2009, Northern Rhone
This breathtaking Syrah wine resulted from a hot growing season and occasional rains in August that enhanced the freshness of the grapes. This rich wine has pleasant tasting notes of black fruit and light tobacco.
Price of Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage 'Cuvee Cathelin' 2009, Northern Rhone: $12,873
4. Benjamin-Louis - Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Asteroide 2012, Loire
The cold growing season led to uneven ripening and lower yields. However, this elegant Sauvignon Blanc turned out quite successful in the difficult 2012 vintage. The wine has delightful aromas of citrus, pineapple, and a hint of minerality.
Price of Benjamin-Louis - Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Asteroide 2012, Loire: $1,532
5. Dom Perignon Rose 2008, Champagne
The 2008 vintage was successful, creating well-balanced sparkling wine with great aging potential and incredible finesse. The Dom Perignon Rose Champagne can be stored for years to come, letting it develop its unique strawberry flavors.
Price of Dom Perignon Rose 2008, Champagne: $423
6. Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Barolo Riserva 2006, Piedmont
The 2006 vintage was exceptional for most Barolo and Barbaresco wines. This Barolo can be drunk or stored, so it fully develops its magnificent cherry and chocolate tasting notes.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Barolo Riserva 2006, Piedmont: $1,261
7. Ornellaia Vendemmia d'Artista Special Edition Bolgheri Superiore 2010, Tuscany
The successful 2010 wine’s vintage resulted in elegant Bolgheri wines with smooth tannins. This Ornellaia has rich flavors of red fruit, leather, tomato, and coffee on the palate. Pair this beautiful wine with traditional food like pasta, beef, or veal.
Price of Ornellaia Vendemmia d'Artista Special Edition Bolgheri Superiore 2010, Tuscany: $1,270
8. Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita Velles Vinyes 2005, Catalonia
2005 was an excellent vintage for many wine regions, including Catalonia, Spain. This wine strikes the palate with intense black fruit flavors and concentrated tobacco, leather, and earth aromas.
Price of Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita Velles Vinyes 2005, Catalonia: $912
9. Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2010, Mosel
The 2010 wine’s vintage from the Egon Muller winery had extremely low yields and a cool climate, resulting in intense Rieslings. The Riesling from this esteemed winemaker has balanced sweetness, rich honey and apricot tasting notes, and high acidity. Pair this delicious wine with cured meats or a cheese platter.
Price of Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2010, Mosel: $16,165
10. Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992, Napa Valley
The growing season of 1992 in Napa resulted in well-ripened grapes and fleshy and well-balanced Cabernet wines.
The Screaming Eagle Napa brand wine is of exceptionally high quality and has a soft blackberry flavor accompanied by a bouquet of aromas like licorice, mint, and pepper.
Price of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992, Napa Valley: $19,927
Now, here’s another important point to consider when you look at vintage wine:
Does Aging Affect Vintage Wine?
When a vintage wine is aged properly, you might notice the following changes:
- Taste: The primary flavors of the wine don’t change, but the wine might develop subtle undertones, and layers of complexity and richness.
- Texture: A white vintage wine can develop an oily mouthfeel with time. Red wine can soften and the tannin bitterness goes down with age.
- Color: A well-aged vintage white wine will transition from a pale yellow to a warm golden hue. Red vintage wines tend to change from ruby or tomato red to dark purple hues.
Some of the best red vintages are:
- Bordeaux red blends
- Burgundy Pinot Noir
- California Cabernet Sauvignon
- Australian Grenache
- Italian Chianti and Cabernet Sauvignon
If you’re looking for exceptional white vintages, then go for:
- Alsace Riesling
- Bordeaux dry white wines
- California Fume Blanc
- Rioja white blends
- New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Also, keep in mind that some vintage wines like Beaujolais Nouveau, Windsor Vineyards or Santa Rosa might not be meant for aging and are best enjoyed when they’re young.
Enjoying an occasional glass of vintage wine in your favorite wine club may be easy. But, buying the right wine for your vintage wine bar collection can be overwhelming.
Even after you buy the best vintage wine bottles, you’ll constantly have to track the drinking window, peak maturity, and maturation time of every single bottle of wine.
So, is there an easy way to buy and store vintage wine, and know the best time to open or sell it?
Buy the Best Vintages Easily Through Vinovest
Vinovest is an online wine investment platform that helps you buy, authenticate, and store investment-grade wines from vintage wine estates all over the world - be it a Chateau Lafite, Cristal Champagne, or a Pouilly-Fuissé.
The cherry on the cake?
Vinovest will help you sell your outstanding wines at the right time to the highest-paying buyer if that’s what you want.
How Does it Work?
Getting started with Vinovest is easy. You just have to:
- Sign up on the Vinovest platform.
- Fill out a quick questionnaire on your risk appetite and investment preferences.
- Fund your account with a minimum of $1,000.
- Let Vinovest’s algorithm choose the best investment wines for you.
- Sit back with a glass of Kir Royale or some other fancy Champagne cocktail and watch your wine portfolio grow.
Here’s why Vinovest is your go-to wine investment platform:
1. Easy Buying and Selling using AI-driven Technology
With Vinovest, you can buy and sell some of the best vintage wine bottles from all over the world with just a few clicks.
2. Curated Wine Portfolio
Vinovest’s master sommeliers and data scientists team will help you build a winning wine portfolio with high-quality wines.
3. Authenticity and Provenance
Are you worried about getting a counterfeit bottle when you buy single vintage wine like Chateau Margaux, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, or Chateau Petrus? Vinovest goes the extra length to trace each bottle’s provenance and guarantees its authenticity before you make the purchase.
4. Best Prices
Vinovest sources its wines from top winery estates, wine producers, merchants, and global wine exchanges, skipping the retailer markup. This gives you accessibility to the best Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet, and other high quality wines at the best prices.
5. Optimal Storage
All your wine bottles are safely stored in bonded warehouses. Each facility maintains optimal wine storage conditions - proper light, temperature, humidity, and vibration levels are maintained at all times.
6. Comprehensive Insurance and Security
All your bottles are insured at a fair market value against theft, damage, or loss. Moreover, each storage facility is monitored with 24/7 surveillance cameras to ensure your wine’s security.
7. Low Overall Costs and Tax Advantages
Vinovest charges lower than most wine investment firms - a 2.85% annual fee (or 2.5% for portfolios exceeding $50,000.) This fee covers wine buying, selling, storage, fraud detection, and portfolio management.
8. Easy Delivery
Do you want to ship your wine to a buyer or as a gift to a friend? Or perhaps you want to enjoy the vintage wine you just bought? Just let Vinovest know about the shipping details, and the rest will be taken care of.
Add the Best Vintage Wines to Your Wine Collection
Vintage wines are a great addition to any wine collection. However, getting a vintage wine as a long-term investment also requires you to store it perfectly and constantly track whether your vintage is at its peak or can be stored for longer.
If you want to avoid all these technicalities and just enjoy your favorite vintage wine, you can rely on a wine investment platform like Vinovest.
So, sign up and explore some of the most exciting wines today!