Can vintage-dated wine be sold in the same calendar year that the grapes were harvested?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Can vintage-dated wine be sold in the same calendar year that the grapes were harvested?

—Clive, Aruba

Dear Clive,

While there are many appellation and classification regulations dictating that wines bearing their names be aged in barrel and/or bottle for any number of months or years before release, there’s no rule that vintage-designated wines can't be sold in the same year in which the grapes were harvested.

Wines that bear the same vintage date as the current calendar year most commonly come from the Southern Hemisphere, where grapes are typically harvested between February and April (Northern Hemisphere harvests usually run from August to October). In countries like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile and Argentina, it’s not that hard to find a wine released before the end of the calendar year, especially light-bodied whites that don’t need any oak aging. We started seeing 2018 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs as early as June, for example.

But there’s also a popular Northern Hemisphere wine that’s released the same year it’s harvested, and that’s France’s Beaujolais Nouveau. The wines undergo a process of crushing and fermentation called carbonic maceration, which yields fruity, light-bodied reds that are released on the third Thursday of November, just a few months after harvest.

—Dr. Vinny

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