The year on bottles always seem very important. What does the year mean exactly? The year it was bottled? Or the year the fermenting began? I love wine and learning about it, if you could recommend a book for me to read to get an over all insite on wine, what would it be?
Answer From Expert Roger Bohmrich MW
The year or vintage on a bottle can indeed be very important information, but the significance varies according to the region and wine. The U.S. governrment defines the vintage year stated on the label as the year in which the grapes were harvested. It is also the year the alcoholic fermentation occurred and was completed in almost all cases.
The significance of the vintage is greater in regions that have more variable growing seasons. This applies to many of the classic European ones such as Burgundy, the Loire Valley, the Mosel, and others. Some years may be hotter and have little rainfall while others can be cooler and rainy. The wines tend to show the effects of the weather. Vintage certainly plays a role but is much less significant in areas with less variability in temperature and little precipitation while the vine is in leaf, such as Napa, Barossa or Mendoza. I'm simplifying this to explain the essential point.
Last, in my professional opinion too many wine lovers focus far too much on the vintage. While they were right to do so in the past, today the modern vintner can override vintage conditions by adjusting vineyard maintenance or by sorting and discarding unripe or rotten grapes, for example, or even by concentrating the juice. This is one reason why good wines are now being made consistently in Burgundy or Bordeaux despite difficulties in the growing season (global warming has also helped, so far). Buy the wine, not the vintage, is my advice.
A great reference and easy read is the latest edition of The World Atlas of Wine (Robinson & Johnson).