It’s no secret that wine enthusiasts love to argue about wine vintages. What year will this wine be in? What year was that one in? To the everyday joe wine lover, it all just seems like some esoteric bit of college knowledge that’s not worth knowing or discussing. So why does it matter to you if you’re an enthusiast getting into wines at home? Because understanding what years are good and which are bad helps you make good purchasing decisions.
Good advice given by an expert will be more likely to hold true for you if you put yourself in the shoes of that expert, and this means understanding things like what years are good. Let’s be clear about one thing right off the bat: “good” doesn’t mean “expensive.” Expensive wines aren’t always good. Sometimes they get overpriced because of high demand during a good year.
If you get into the Underground Cellar wine club, you get access to wines that are not only limited in supply simply due to the vineyard having a smaller output, but you also have access to wines from specific years– something of particular value if you are trying to get your feet wet with more premium wines.
So what years are good? And, if there are bad years, what does that mean for the bottles you buy? Here’s a brief primer on wine vintages and which ones are typically considered the best.
Wine Vintage Key Facts
2013: The warmest year on record, which resulted in high alcohol levels and very ripe grapes. This is typically not considered a good year for white wines, but it’s excellent for reds.
2012: A colder year, which means lower alcohol levels and a more appropriate ripeness level for white wines. This is a good thing for white wines but not great for reds.
2011: Another cooler year results in lower alcohol levels and the perfect amount of ripeness for white wines. Great for reds.
2010: The most balanced of all years, with high ripeness levels and low alcohol levels. A good year for both whites and reds.
2009, 2008 & 2007: All three are highly similar to one another in that they’re cooler than the average year but still considered warm enough to produce quality grape harvests. Great for white wines, decent for reds.
2004: Another really warm year that produces high alcohol levels and ripe grapes and makes whites almost undrinkable to the average palate as they’re too sweet and unbalanced.
2003: An “average” year that is good for both whites and reds, with slightly lower alcohol levels and the perfect level of ripeness for this year’s weather.
2002: Also known as a “perfect” year, 2002 is excellent for both whites and reds due to its balance between high temperatures, and low rainfall resulted in ripe, healthy grapes while still maintaining drinkable white wines.
2000: A very odd year where the vines suffered from an early frost and then were hit with a very rainy September. It’s not considered as good as others, but it’s still decent for both whites and reds.
1999: Another colder than average year that was good for white wines but bad for reds due to lower alcohol levels.
1998: A warmer than average year that produced well-balanced wines. Great for both whites and reds.
1997: A cooler than average year is good for white wines but not great for reds as the lower alcohol levels are harmful to this grape variety.