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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Does every country use the vintage year as the year of harvest? Or do some use the year of bottling the wine?

—Drago B., Slovenia

Dear Drago,

When there is a date on a bottle of wine, it is universally a vintage date, referring to the year the grapes were picked.

However, in some unusual cases, it can refer to both. Some wines, such as Beaujolais Nouveau, are produced and bottled quickly and made available for sale just weeks after the grapes are picked. And because wines from the Southern Hemisphere are typically picked around March, it’s not unusual to see some wines—like, say, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs—available in the market later that same year.

If a wine doesn’t have a vintage year on it at all, it’s called “non-vintage,” or NV. There are some terrific NV wines, like many Ports and sparkling wines, but there are also some mass-produced wines that don’t carry a vintage date.

—Dr. Vinny

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