The Cardinals' Wine Vintage Chart
Our scores have been calculated by taking the average of five different vintage charts in an attempt to offer a general consensus of each vintage’s merits. As a word of caution, vintage charts are a general guide and should only be used as such. There can, for example, be a very large variation between neighbouring vineyards a mere hundred yards from each other.
Please see our interactive chart below or download the PDF version. Click on the vintages or regions to see The Cellar's offer for a given vintage / region.
The concept of vintage is relatively new. Before the advent of the bottle in the 1700s, wine was drunk as young wine. Stored in, sold by and served from the barrel, it was prone to deteriorate very quickly and consequently drunk within the year.
A vintage wine is any wine from a single harvest. As Michael Broadbent puts it: “every wine, strictly speaking, is therefore a vintage wine. Whether it remains so depends on its quality”. If (like the majority of wine) it is blended with another - it is no longer deemed vintage.
In the case of champagne and port, the definition of vintage changes because blending is the hallmark of these wines. Houses will only declare a vintage year when conditions are good enough to do so. The decision to do so is rarely taken lightly – the more conventional port shippers declare on average only three times a decade.
What makes a good vintage?
There are two main factors which determine the quality of a wine: the experience of the winemaker and weather conditions.
Weather is of course the great variable that determines a good or bad vintage. The microclimate of a specific vineyard compared to its nearby neighbour’s can vary with major implications for the differences between the two final products. May is a particularly worrying time due to potential frost damage to the budding vines which start to flower in early June when things start to get warmer. This is the critical period when viticulturists pray for warm (but not too hot) calm weather. In September, the winemaker must make the difficult decision when to harvest. He must choose between picking now or waiting for more sun to help ripening and increased sugar levels. Waiting is at the risk of receiving rainfall which will dilute the grapes.