Does the vintage year on a wine bottle indicate the year the grapes were harvested, or the year the wine was released?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

If some wines are left to age for years in barrels before release, does the year on the bottle indicate the year the grapes were harvested, or does it mean when the wine was released?

—Andrea S., Vancouver

Dear Andrea,

Even though wine labeling laws vary around the world, one thing that remains constant is that the year on the label always refers to the year the grapes were harvested. You’re right, some wines might be released right away while others might age in barrels for years before release, but either way, the vintage date is the harvest date.

Some wines might not have any vintage date on their labels, and these are referred to as “non-vintage” bottlings. These wines are blends of multiple vintages, which gives winemakers flexibility to maintain a consistent house style year after year.

—Dr. Vinny

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