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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I was once told that Chardonnays don’t have a year on their labels. Why do some Chardonnays, and some don’t?
—Sharon G., Weston, Conn.
Most wines sold in the United States are vintage bottlings—that is, they carry a date that refers to the year the grapes were harvested. Some wines—mostly certain Champagnes and Ports—do not carry a vintage date, and are known as “non-vintage,” or NV.
Vintages can vary. Some years might be too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, or have other difficulties during the growing season. By making a non-vintage wine, producers can avoid tough vintages and have more flexibility in what they blend. The goal of many non-vintage wines is to maintain a house style, a wine that will taste consistent from bottling to bottling.
While it seems that wine lovers accept NV bubblies and Ports—and appreciate that it’s special when a vintage is “declared”—outside of that, non-vintage wines are often looked down upon. While there are plenty of enjoyable NV wines, many of them are mass-produced and tend to be less expressive than vintage bottlings.
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