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
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.