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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Champagnes and Ports generally make non-vintage wines and only declare a vintage in the best of years. Why is this the case for those wines, but not for other varietals? I can’t recall ever seeing a non-vintage Pinot Noir or Bordeaux.
—Chris, King of Prussia, Pa.
Good point. I should mention that there are probably more multi-vintage wines out there than we know about, as various labeling laws can allow a certain percentage of wine from a different vintage to be blended into a vintage-dated wine.
Champagnes and Ports have a long tradition of high-quality wines made with blended vintages to ensure a consistent house style. Aside from that, non-vintage wines have a reputation of being lesser quality. There are plenty of non-vintage bottles on supermarket shelves, usually mass-produced, inexpensive wines. While some of them offer a pleasant quaff, their non-vintage house style can result in simple, homogenized flavors. There are exceptions—terrific wines made by clever winemakers, but still typically in the value range.
While blending vintages together can result in good, even great wines, I think that most wine lovers interested in the nuances of wine feel, as I do, that truly great wines are a reflection of their place of origin, their type of grape and their vintage.
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