Updated: Mar 21, 2021
What is a Vintage?
A wine's vintage is the year for which the grapes were harvested.
You will often hear wine-lovers talk about their love for specific vintages, for instance,
"Hey, have you tried the 1982 Lafite? 1982 is one of the best vintages of all time, you definitely need to try it."
But what makes a good vintage?
What makes a Good Vintage?
Like many things in life, it is all about 'balance'.
Balance between many factors that grape growers have no control over, which ultimately is what makes the wines from the best vintages so well-sought after.
First, you need ample sunshine for grapes to fully ripe and mature. You also need sufficient rainfall for vines to grow. However, too much of either of these will negatively affect the taste and the quality of wine. Excess rainfall leads to higher likelihood of fungal diseases for the vines, and a more diluted grapes. While too much sun can result in grapes getting cooked or burnt, becoming like raisins, losing its natural acidity.
But how much is too much? Well, that again depends on multiple factors and is extremely complex. Some factors include the season, region, climate, soil conditions etc. So there really isn't a way to define specific numbers of hours of sunshine or amount of rainfall that make up the best vintages for wine.
With that in mind, when looking at vintage charts, it is alway recommended to look at ones that provide the vintage information for as small of a region as possible, as that should mean better accuracy. For instance, let's assume a vintage chart shows you that 2019 was an excellent vintage for Japanese Wine. You got excited, visited the nearby wine store and bought yourself a 2019 Koshu vintage from Yamanashi Prefecture, thinking this will be one of the best Japanese Wine you have ever tried. You opened the bottle, tasted it, and you were disappointed. Why is that? Well, even though 2019 may be the an outstanding vintage for Japanese Wine overall, Yamanashi Prefecture may have suffered one of the worst typhoons and flood in recent history during the harvest season in 2019, resulting in poor-quality vintages for Yamanashi wine from that year. So it is always advised to look as specific as possible when it comes to vintage charts.
Now that we understand what a vintage is and the determining factors behind a great vintage, let's look at a vintage chart put together by the Yamanashi Prefecture Wine Manufacturers' Association.
As mentioned in this article, Yamanashi is the top prefecture in Japan when it comes to total wine production and the prefecture with most number of wineries.
Ratings for the different vintages in this vintage chart for Yamanashi are given as follows:
Best Vintages for Japanese Wine from Yamanashi
In the past 30 years, only 3 vintages were given an 'Excellent' rating, they are:
1992: High-quality fruits harvested with low rainfall throughout the season.
2002: High temperature, lots of sunshine, low rainfall, excellent vintage.
2012: Moderate rainfall and temperature throughout the seasons, outstanding vintage.
Worst Vintages for Japanese Wine from Yamanashi
No vintages were given a 'Terrible' rating, but there were 4 that were rated as 'Poor':
1993: Cold summer, excess rainfall, insufficient sunlight.
1998: Too much rainfall during harvest season, temperature also too high, which led to a poor quality harvest.
2008: High temperature from Jul - Sep with too much rainfall led to vine diseases.
2019: Significantly impacted by the typhoons and heavy rainfalls in mid-late October. Overall grapes were underripe, harvest for the prefecture was 20% - 30% worse than average.