On its face, the difference between vintage and nonvintage wines is simple. Vintage wines are made from grapes harvested during a single growing season, while nonvintage wines can blend a few different harvests. In most parts of the wine world, the vintage year written on the label is just facts: It lets you know the year those grapes in your bottle of Bordeaux or Ribera del Duero were harvested.
Granted, vintage variation keeps things interesting. Due to climatic conditions, some years produce wines that are considered better than others.
But there’s much more to understanding vintage when it comes to Port and Champagne.
The three styles of vintage Ports have varied aging requirements / Getty
What is a Nonvintage Wine?
Unlike other wine regions, the vast majority of the Port and Champagne made each year is nonvintage. Wineries like Champagne Marie Césaire and Quinta do Tedo blend batches from multiple vintages to create bottles with a consistent house style, year after year.
“Every year we have to reproduce this blend of three harvests, and it’s our winemaker who’s just phenomenal to arrive at the same flavor,” says Kay Bouchard, whose family makes Quinta do Tedo ruby and tawny Ports in Portugal’s Douro Valley. About 98% of the total Port production released each year is nonvintage, she says.