Understanding Wine Vintages and Why They Matter to You

Wine can be dramatically affected by its vintage. The same grapes from the same vineyard take on distinctively different characteristics depending on the year they were harvested. We all know we should try good vintages to maximise our tasting experience, but first, we need to know what we’re looking for. Ideal Wine Company is this week breaking down how vintages can change wine and what to seek to get the best out of the experience.

Ideal Wine Company wine vintage
We’re breaking down how vintages can change wine and what to seek to get the best out of the experience.

What is a wine vintage?

First of all, the vintage of wine is the year it was produced in. When the grape was grown and harvested leads to many changes in flavours. The taste and quality can be affected, primarily because of the different weather. These conditions alter the vines and how they are growing throughout the year. The vintage date is found on the bottle, label or even cork.

The defining feature of a vintage is sunshine. If the year has seen plenty of sunny weather, the grapes are given the best chance to reach full maturity and optimum ripeness levels. However, too much heat, defined as too many days above 33 ºC, and the grapes will dry out which can lead to bitter tannins in your wine. If the year is particularly rainy or cloudy, the grapes do not fully ripen. This makes them prone to rot and disease, delivering lower quality grapes.

Wines without a vintage date are usually made by blending multiple years together. If you opt for a non-vintage wine, you’ll usually find more consistency. They are typically a house style wine that is good value but does not offer unique distinctions from year to year.

Signs to look out for

You can determine how good the vintage will be by looking out for signs in the weather. Each season has key features that can change how your wine tastes.

  • Spring: Look out for early snow and hail-storms, as these can break off flowers and buds. This could potentially reduce the crops by 100%. A sunny spring is perfect for growing wine -and drinking it!
  • Summer: For both us and grapes, rain in summer can put a dampener on things! Wet weather during the simmer can cause disease which ruin grapes. In addition, droughts and exceptionally hot weather can cause vines to pause their growth. A mild but sunny summer are the ideal conditions for a good vintage.
  • Autumn: Harvest time is the most important season for grapes. Bad weather in this period can greatly reduce the quality of the vintage. Rain can cause grapes to swell, which means they can either lose concentration or even rot. Cold weather will stop the grapes from ripening.

When vintage should matter

The wine vintage will play the biggest role in regions where the climate is very variable. If you’re buying a bottle from northern Europe, such as France, Germany or Northern Italy, you should be paying attention to the vintage.

If your wine is from a predictable climate, such as Portugal, Argentina, Australia, California and Southern Italy, you’ll see more consistency year-on-year. This makes vintage less important.

Knowing the vintage of your wine can be important, but may not be your biggest concern. If you’re buying a wine from a region where there is a lot of difference between vintages, however, it is one of the most crucial factors you should know before you buy. A little bit of research here can go a long way!

Beaujolais affected by adverse weather

The weather woes continue for many vineyards across France and Spain, which have been hit by unseasonal weather. Ideal Wine Company discuss the weather conditions hitting Beaujolais.

While the late spring frosts are finally history, unexpected weather conditions are still taking their toll. For example, some of the 2017 Beaujolais harvest looks likely to have been lost following a brutal hailstorm in mid-July.

The summer hailstorm hammered the Beaujolais region, leading to damaged crops and uncertainty for the vineyards. It’s something that will feel familiar to the vineyard owners, who suffered a similar fat in 2016. However, this year’s storms have caused more damage on a wider scale.

Ideal Wine Company damaged vineyards
Adverse weather has hit vineyards across Europe.

Beaujolais Crus worst affected

Situated up in the north, the Beaujolais Crus vineyard looks to have been one of the worst affected. The storm also hit Chiroubles, Morgon, Chenas, Fleurie, Moulin a Vent and the north of Régnié.

Fleurie is a picturesque village and was one of the worst hit, with the violence of the winds damaging not only the vineyards, but also many houses. The affect on the infrastructure throughout the villages and towns affected show the extent of the storm and the strength of the winds.

Rarely seen tornado

The president of InterBeaujolais, Dominique Piron, said: “It was a tornado. I have rarely seen this. The small hailstones and the wind have a sandblasting effect on the vines.”

The full extent of the damage is still being assessed, and it’s clear that many vineyards and people have been affected. Dominique added: “In our modern world, it is difficult to accept such a sudden event. But it is unfortunately the lot of those who work with nature.”

Run of bad weather

This year has seen a plethora of destructive weather conditions affecting vineyards across France, Spain and Italy.

Late frosts in May and early June, along with freak storms later on in the summer have led to many crops being affected. It is likely to affect both the price and the amount of wine available on shelves next year, although just how much remains to be seen.

Stay in Tuscany’s specially built ‘wine town’

Tuscany is a beautiful place for a holiday, particularly if you’re a wine aficionado. There’s something magical about the rolling Tuscan countryside, with culturally rich cities sitting in among ancient greenery. Ideal Wine Company discusses why this is a perfect getaway destination.

And, to create a holiday destination perfect for people who love both northern Italy and wine, a new wine ‘town’ has just opened in Bolgheri. Situated on the Tuscan coast, this ‘World Wine Town’ offers tastings, restaurants specialising in wine, self-catering apartments and even holograms of Italian winemakers.

The wine resort opened last month (June 2017) in the recently restored farm estate of Casone Ugolino. It’s taken 15 years to develop and cost €12 million, which came from banks and private investors.

Ideal Wine Company Tuscany wine town
Why should you visit Tuscany’s wine town this summer?

Museum central to wine town

A wine museum is situated just on the edge of Castagneto Carducci. This three-storey celebration of the region’s wine history boasts the holograms of Gaddo della Gherardesca, Niccolo Incisa della rocchetta and Piero Antinori, all presenting stories of their wine making family history.

The huge museum space was designed by Academy Award winner Dante Ferretti and promises to wow visitors. The museum costs just eight euros to get in, and of course this includes a wine tasting.

Plenty to taste and try

There are three restaurants in the resort, including a faithful reproduction of an Old Tuscan inn. For a real taste of the old world you can eat at Osteria Vinality, or go for Mercato del Borgo, which serves up very local food.

All of this is ideal for the wine lover’s perfect holiday. They can even stay in the self -apartments and use this wine town resort as the base for their Tuscan holiday – if they can bring themselves to leave its grounds that is!

The resort is planning to open a wine education centre in 2018, to catch the interest of the next generation of wine lovers.

Five Top Italian Wine Regions To Visit In 2017

If you’re looking for a top wine destination to visit in 2017, you may want to try Italy. Around a two hour’s flight from London, this peninsula nation is known for making some of the most popular wine products on earth, like Prosecco and Chianti. But there’s so much to see, so where should you start?  Giving you a helping hand, Ideal Wine Company names five top Italian wine regions to visit in 2017.


Veneto is a wine-making region based in North-East Italy, which is perfect for sparkling wine lovers. It is one of the only regions in Italy where Prosecco is made, so when visiting Veneto, you can learn more about this increasingly-popular product. According to Wine Folly, an industry publication, Veneto is also famous for several of its fantastic Merlot-based reds and its Chardonnay-esque white Suave.


If you’re a fan of Chianti, travel to Tuscany in north-central Italy, where the product’s primary grape, Sangiovese, is grown. Tuscany is Italy’s most prolific wine-making region, giving you many estates and vineyards to check out. Apart from Chianti, Tuscany boasts a number of other legally-protected wine products for you to try, such as the ‘Super Tuscan’ dry red, ensuring that you’ll have a fabulous time.


Often called ‘Italy’s Burgundy,’ Piedmont is home to some of the country’s most famous varietals and wineries. Based in the Alps, on the border with France and Switzerland, Piedmont is especially known for its Barolo red wines, which are made across the region. It also produces Moscato d’Asti, a delicious white sparkling wine, making Piedmont a fantastic place to sample products from across the spectrum.


Moving away from the North, Basilicata is a region in South-Central Italy. It is something of an underdog in Italian wine-making, making Basilicata a great place to visit if you want to go off the beaten path. The region is particularly known for its Aglianico-based red wines, which are full-bodied and age very well. It also produces various Syrah and Moscato wines that you’re sure to love!


Serving as a hub of Mediterranean viticulture for millennia, Sicily is one of the best destinations in Europe for wine fans. The area’s Nero d’Avola wine is absolutely stunning and you can sample it at various vineyards across Sicily. The island also has a reputation for producing Syrahs which are comparable to those made in the South of France, ensuring that you’ll have an amazing time in Sicily.

Sample wines

With these five regions, we’ve only just scratched the surface. There are so many wine-making regions in Italy that you can visit each one and discover something unique every time. If you’re planning to go on an Italian wine holiday this year, prepare by sampling some of the nation’s best vintages before you travel. Browse the Italian wines list on Ideal Wine Company’s website to get started today!

Image credit: Jeff Kubina

Who’s the Biggest Wine Producer in the World?

New data has told the Ideal Wine Company team that France has been displaced as the largest wine producer in the world. So who’s taken their crown?

Wine capital

France is regarded as the most important wine making region in the world. Our neighbours across the English Channel have developed a reputation for creating superior vintages, especially in the regions of Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy. If you want to experience an outstanding Burgundy, you should purchase the Chambertin Potel 2005 from the Ideal Wine Company.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn, then, that France was the most prolific maker of wine in the world in 2014. Statistics from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) suggests that French wine production will increase by 1.2%, to 47.4 million hectolitres, in 2015.

New champion

This means, however, that France will no longer hold the title of the largest wine producer in the world. That honour will go to their neighbour to the South-East, Italy. Bloomberg reported that the OIV’s figures indicated that Italian wine production will increase 10%, to 48.9 hectolitres, this year.

The Organisation revealed that this impressive growth will be spurred by the rebounding fortunes of Prosecco and Chianti, two of the peninsula-nation’s most famous wine products. Carla di Paola, Italy’s representative with the OIV commented that “wine is part of our tradition, being number one is important.”

Rough numbers

The OIV’s numbers went on to show that the Northern Hemisphere is set to enjoy strong wine production figures this year. Their projections indicate that Spain will be the third largest wine produced in the world; the Iberian nation’s wine production, however, will drop 4.2% to 36.6 million hectolitres in 2015. Meanwhile the US’ wine production will rise 0.5%, to 22.1 million, by the end of the year.

Jean-Marie Aurand, director general at the OIV was quick to point out in a meeting with reporters, that these figures are only rough. Aurand said that “we’re only just finishing the harvests in the Northern Hemisphere, so these numbers are preliminary;” we won’t have access to more exact figures for a long while yet.

Buy Italian wine

The OIV’s numbers, rough as they are at this stage, have shown us that Italian wine is incredibly popular right now. If you want to learn why, you should buy the Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT 1990, a phenomenal Italian vintage, from the Ideal Wine Company, and try some for yourself!