A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and picked in a single specified year. Most white wine and red wines in Australia come from a single vintage, and the specific vintage year is printed on the front label of each bottle. Each vintage wine has a unique flavour profile reflective of the fruit picked during that year.
So what makes each vintage different?
The micro-climate (regional weather conditions) of any particular wine-growing region varies, sometimes quite dramatically, from one year to the next. These changes in the micro-climate impact the resulting flavour profile of the wine produced each year. For example, during 2014 our Shiraz grapes grown in the New South Wales region of Hilltops experienced an excellent season of warm days and cool nights. This allowed the fruit to reach optimum maturity at harvest time with low fruit yield, intense fruit flavours and medium tannins. However if the region received high amounts of rainfall and unstable conditions during the 2014 season, the resulting wine would have been far less superior with minimal flavour and tannins.
The ongoing effects of global climate change is the biggest challenge for viticulturists in Australia with changing weather patterns and unreliable predictability of rain, making the consistency of regular yearly vintage increasingly difficult. However with good vine management and specific site selection the impact of these influences can be minimised and even harnessed for the benefit of flavour. The stature of the wines coming out of the Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Riverina and Canberra regions and the awards being bestowed on many of the McWilliam’s wines are testament to this.
What are non-vintage wines?
A non-vintage wine is created by blending together a number wines from different vintages. Fortified wines including Tawny, Apera, Topaque and Muscat are generally referred to as non-vintage wines. This is because they are created from a blend of different vintages and grapes, with the aim of creating a consistent ‘house style’ blend that doesn’t change flavour throughout the years.