Why don't most 1.5-liter wine bottles have a vintage date?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

My local stores no longer carry vintage-dated 1.5-liter bottles of wine. The only vintage wine they carry is in standard 750ml bottles. Has there been a legal change in the way larger-format bottles can be labeled?

—Bob, Wasilla, Alaska

Dear Bob,

There haven’t been any recent changes to the requirements for vintage-designated wine. (In the United States, in order for a wine to qualify for a vintage designation, at least 85 percent of the wine must have come from that vintage; for AVA-designated wines, that threshold increases to 95 percent.) But there’s plenty of great non-vintage (NV) wine—most sparkling wine, including Champagne, doesn’t carry a vintage designation. Winemakers might choose to blend wine across vintages for many reasons, but the most common is to ensure a consistent product from year to year that reflects the winery’s house style and is less subject to vintage variation.

Most wine bottled in 1.5-liter bottles (aka magnums) comes in the form of mass-produced value wine, and it makes sense that those wines would not carry a vintage designation. It takes a lot of skill to make a large volume of good, consistent wine, and blending across vintages adds a level of flexibility in that effort to deliver a reliable product from year to year. Not designating a vintage is also another way for those value-oriented wines to pass additional savings onto their customers, as the winery doesn’t have to print new labels for each vintage.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny labeling-regulations labels values

More In Dr. Vinny

What is the benefit of “keeping wine on the dregs”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what a wine's "dregs" are and why some wines …

Jan 30, 2023

How do you soften a hard cork?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens after a wine bottle is opened, and …

Jan 24, 2023

How long can Champagne be stored in a wine cooler?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens as sparkling wine ages, how long it …

Jan 17, 2023

I shook a bottle of wine with sediment and now it's cloudy. Is it ruined?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where sediment comes from, and what to do if …

Jan 9, 2023

Can a cork-tainted bottle of wine cross-contaminate other bottles in my cellar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how and when cork taint or TCA contamination …

Jan 3, 2023

Dr. Vinny’s Wine Care Clinic: Top Tips for Safekeeping Your Wine Bottles

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny answers all your wine storage and serving questions!

Dec 27, 2022