The Vintage Chart Debate

In recent years, some critics assert that vintage charts are obsolete, affirming winemakers have the technology and skills to make great wines even in the worst of years.

The quandary with this line of reasoning is that a great wine begins with a superior grape. As grapes are extremely sensitive to weather conditions, severe weather can directly damage a vineyard, resulting in disease and infestation. The weather also influences the flavor and character of the final product; that is why climate and weather conditions play a major part in making a great wine.

Winemakers may use the latest technologies to adjust inferior grapes, yet their results will rarely supersede a product made from a superior product. This is evident by looking at our vintage chart. Some years rate high, whereas others do not.

Download Enobytes Free Vintage Chart (1988 – 2009)

During the turn-of-the-century, California’s Northern Coast varietals scored 90+ ratings for many years. In recent years, the ratings have dipped as many as seven points. In 2003, the Southern Rhone region had a twenty-five point spread from one vintage to the next. In Bordeaux, a fifteen-point spread occurred within the last five years.

This year-to-year inconsistency confirms that making a great wine goes beyond technology. Although technology can play a big part in the winemaking process, many other factors come into play when making a great wine.

This is why vintage charts are invaluable. They show rough estimates of how a particular region’s reputation faired in any given year. This comes in handy when consumers need guidance on their buying decisions. If consumers have to decide between two vintages, the answer becomes more apparent with the help of a vintage chart.

These charts also provide a convenient indication of when to “hold” a wine versus when to “drink” a wine. Consumers appreciate the guidance to alert them when a wine is drinkable and when it is not.

Additionally, if vintage charts are dead, why do the big players like Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator continue to update and maintain their vintage charts? It’s because they continue to provide significant information for which consumers find invaluable.

Looking for the latest vintage chart? Click HERE.

2016-12-29T16:13:18+00:00

About the Author:

This post was written by the Enobytes staff. Eat Well. Drink Well. Live Well!

34 Comments

  1. nate January 6, 2008 at 4:19 PM - Reply

    it matters when the grapes were picked, the level of acidity, tannin structure, & sulfer. Consumers should not rely on experts as to what wines they like. they should develop their own tastes

  2. James January 6, 2008 at 4:21 PM - Reply

    I look at it this way – use vintage charts if they help you. If they don’t provide value, then don’t use them. Make your own decisions if that is what you prefer. It’s that simple. I use them on occasion and I think they are useful.

  3. Matt January 6, 2008 at 11:17 PM - Reply

    I agree with Nate that consumers should develop their own tastes but on the flip side, its nice to have a guideline in place. I myself am not an expert, however I have used these types of charts frequently and they have always saved me from making bad buying decisions. By the way, thanks for the awesome chart! I’ve downloaded it and plan on laminating it and using it frequently. Thanks!

  4. John Witherspoon January 7, 2008 at 7:18 AM - Reply

    I think vintage charts are useful but you have to take them for what they are, just a guide. They are a great “cheat sheet” to deciding on wines sometimes. If you are in a restaurant and no idea about 4 of the Cabs on the menu that are in the same price range, but remember that 2002 was better than 2003 you could use that knowledge to possibly pick the better wine. I think developing your own tastes and using vintage charts are 2 different things and really don’t see the two have to be mutually exclusive.
    Just my 3 cents. :)
    John

    Thanks for the chart and the post

  5. richard January 7, 2008 at 9:07 AM - Reply

    The thing that dismays me most is your actual vintage chart. Austria, arguably the world’s pound-for-pound greatest white wine nation is nowhere to be found. Unbelievably, Alsace and Champagne are completely ignored. Your obsession with red wine is quite transparent.

  6. enobytes January 7, 2008 at 11:56 AM - Reply

    Richard, we are guilty as charged! Unfortunately, we don’t have a person on our small team that is an expert in the regions you mentioned above, so we stick with what we know. We heavily focus on the red varietals, but we hope to expand our chart to include more whites and to expand upon our regions; our chart is a living document that we will update frequently, so please check back for updates.

  7. Kenneth January 7, 2008 at 7:47 PM - Reply

    I agree with John – I don’t see the correlation between using vintage charts to develop your personal taste; charts are guidelines, they are not used to force you to like one wine over another – What am I missing?

  8. Dean January 14, 2008 at 10:35 PM - Reply

    Ken – I don’t see the correlation either, but to each his own.

    I actually used this chart recently to assist in a buying decision between several Chateauneuf du Pape vintages. I had an opportunity to do a vertical tasting of a 2003, 2004 and 2005 by the same producer. I preferred the 2005 vintage. When I reviewed the vintage chart, I noticed the 2005 received a 96 rating, whereas the other years received a 91. The decision might not always be so cut and dry, but my decision was relatively easy after tasting the wine and using the chart. The 2005 was the winner.

  9. bill t March 31, 2008 at 8:43 AM - Reply

    As guides go, yours does as much damage as any I’ve encountered. Who, exactly, is making judgment? The 1993 Red Burgundies from the Cote de Beaune have just begun to develop secondary characteristics and will remain plateaued at their peak for at least a decade. The 1993 Cote de Nuit wines are still years away. The same is true of the 1988’s from the better producers. When you talk the talk you better be able to walk the walk.

  10. zinguy April 1, 2008 at 2:36 PM - Reply

    “Who, exactly, is making judgment?”
    Obviously someone that didn’t waste their money investing in 93 Cote de Beaune’s or 93 Cote de Nuit’s. Ratings are highly subjective. Let’s leave it at that.

  11. Carl April 18, 2008 at 10:33 PM - Reply

    Bill t,

    Unless you are Don Johnson, Miami Vice died years ago. However serviceable these wines are, they do not reach the level of classic nor extraordinary. If you recall, Burgundy growers faced hardships in 1993. Although a few houses from negociants e.g. Jadot and Drouhin salvaged the vintage, the majority stumbled due to rain in the summer, mildew in the vineyards and yet again more rain during harvest. All these factors conspired against expectations. Overall, 93 was not a good year.

  12. […] is also a debate about the chart that is quite interesting. It starts out with this paragraph: In recent years, some critics assert […]

  13. […] The Great Vintage Chart Debate (with chart) at Enobytes […]

  14. A Nice Information Site | Mark's Wine Blog December 11, 2009 at 11:51 AM - Reply

    […] check them out. Their vintage chart that I was so impressed […]

    • Roby June 26, 2011 at 2:22 PM - Reply

      Great post!

  15. A Nice Information Site January 3, 2010 at 3:43 AM - Reply

    […] them out. Their vintage chart that I was so impressed […]

  16. Greg April 26, 2010 at 5:46 PM - Reply

    Hi
    How about some options on the vintage chart — can we take one and use color gradients to help focus on the hi’s and low’s ?

    Greg

  17. Nancy July 12, 2010 at 10:47 PM - Reply

    Pamela, Mark it was great meeting you at WBC10! I’ve been enjoying your site, and am thrilled to find this great point of reference. Obviously there is some controversy, but it is still intriguing. Thank you!

  18. enobytes July 13, 2010 at 9:47 AM - Reply

    Hi Nancy! Thanks for the kudos, and hope to see you next year! #WBC11

    • Lorrie June 26, 2011 at 12:37 PM - Reply

      So excited I found this resource!

  19. charlie December 29, 2010 at 12:32 AM - Reply

    Why isnt Germany represented on this chart? Riesling….? Champagne?

  20. enobytes December 29, 2010 at 11:00 AM - Reply

    Hi Charlie, we don’t sample enough wine from Champagne or Germany to appropriately rate them. We are, however, are looking for a qualified contributor.

  21. […] commenting about the lack of some regions (ah-hem, Champagne, Alsace, Germany, Austria) we don’t sample enough wine from these areas to place them […]

  22. Solomon Oslo June 19, 2011 at 11:54 PM - Reply

    This is a great resource, thanks.

    • enobytes July 16, 2011 at 8:09 PM - Reply

      Appreciate the kudos Solomon!

  23. […] commenting about the lack of some regions (ah-hem, Champagne, Alsace, Germany, Austria) we don’t sample enough wine from these areas to place them […]

    • Eloise June 26, 2011 at 2:19 PM - Reply

      The internet is a brighter place thanks to your posts!

  24. Larry Crowne June 26, 2011 at 1:10 AM - Reply

    This is wonderful blog. I love it.

  25. Lennylee July 15, 2011 at 3:40 PM - Reply

    Hail to the vintage chart!!! :)

  26. enobytes July 16, 2011 at 8:10 PM - Reply

    Thanks for the comments all, glad to hear the chart comes in handy!

  27. Neil July 18, 2011 at 10:00 AM - Reply

    I just saw another debate about vintage charts coming from Paul Gregutt going on about how worthless these charts are — I find it interesting that he bashes them even when his employer, the Wine Enthusiast, produces them. Vintage charts are a generalization, and I’d prefer something to guide me over nothing. Strangely enough, I’m not sure why Paul goes on and on regarding how vintage charts won’t help with details like how the wine was stored, shipped, bad corks and personal preferences in flavors??? Of course vintage charts can’t answer these questions — It’s a VINTAGE chart!!!

    • enobytes July 18, 2011 at 7:08 PM - Reply

      Folks tend to argue a lot about the value of these charts. If you find value in them, then use them. If not, walk away!

  28. Gwyn Albelo April 21, 2012 at 10:51 AM - Reply

    Precisely what I was looking for.. Learning something new each day. Thank you for posting this.

  29. […] Enjoy the download and happy buying, drinking, and cellaring! Want more information on vintage charts? Read the Vintage Chart Debate. […]

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