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What is a Vintage Red?

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Question from Lindsay: What is a vintage red?

Reply: Hi, Lindsay. Thanks for writing! I love this kind of question because I know that half of the wine-drinking population probably has the same one.

“A Vintage Wine”: You hear that phrase in the movies, but it’s never been entirely clear to me what is meant. You assume it must be good, right? The speaker might mean that it’s a very good vintage of a fine brand or type. Or, like vintage clothing, it may refer to a fine, older vintage. Maybe both. No wonder everyone’s confused.

In the real world, there are different ways to interpret your question, so let’s start with the most common thing you see when you shop for wine, and that’s the vintage date.

Vintage Date: The vintage date on the label doesn’t mean it’s a good vintage, it’s simply identifying what year the grapes were grown and harvested (harvest is only once a year so it’s a big deal). The wine’s structure and flavor reflects the weather patterns during the growing season, for better or for worse. A warm year produces ripe, fruity flavors and soft acidity (less tartness). A cool growing season makes for a tarter wine that may not be as fruity. The fruitiness is often replaced by herbal, vegetative and/or mineral-like flavors and aromas. So, any wine – a white, red or rosé can have a vintage date. The only way for you to know if it’s a good vintage is to do a search or ask your retailer. Continue reading

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