Do You Care About Vintage Charts? (Wine Spectator Giveaway)

Vinted on September 20, 2010 binned in best of, giveaways

You may have noticed that Wine Spectator has been advertising here on I know, right?  The temperature in Hell may just have gotten a couple of more degrees below freezing.

WS are pushing their new iTunes vintage chart app, and part of that push involves a month-long ad stint here and on other on-line wine publications/blogs. Me being me, I asked them to sweeten the deal and as such this week we are giving away a one-year subscription to Wine Spectator (print or on-line), a $49.95 value

I think I just heard teeth chattering by another lost soul in Hell… [though I should note, before you or the FTC send me any flaming e-mail, that this post is not sponsored, I worked with the WS reps to concoct the giveaway idea].

Anyway, here’s how the giveaway works:

  • Leave a comment here telling everyone what you think about vintage charts: are they useful? overrated? essential?
  • In one week, I will randomly select a winner from the commenters to walk away with a one-year Wine Spectator subscription!

I’ll kick things off by talking about my view on vintage charts – but first, I probably need to clear the air about how I view Wine Spectator in general, because right now that air seems to be a little smoky

I’ve got nothing against Wine Spectator, though it seems to be popular gossip sometimes that I do.  In fact, some of their editors are fans of the blog.  I do have something against a good number of their on-line forum members, though, but that doesn’t extend to the majority of their editorial team.

I don’t read WS – I purchased one issue several years ago, couldn’t make sense of it, felt it didn’t relate to me in any meaningful way, and never looked back.  Everyone is different, and not everyone is going to respond to the overall voice and style of wine coverage in WS. Plus, reading a page or two of wine review scores and snippets makes my eyes glaze over.  Thankfully, with the advent of new beverage magazines, wine blogs, etc., just about anyone and everyone should be able to find a voice that speaks to them in a meaningful way these days when it comes to wine.

But even though we just did it, we’re not here to talk about Wine Spectator per se, but about their foray into the iTunes app world by way of an interactive vintage chart, the demo of which looks pretty impressive from a usability standpoint.  Which doesn’t help me much, since I almost never refer to vintage charts.

Vintage charts just don’t speak to me, either.  Actually, let me rephrase that – they do speak to me, but only for very specific wine regions (mostly the cooler ones) in which the vagaries of weather play such a huge part in quality that vintage charts from people you trust and whose palates reflect your own can help you determine if you’re getting ripped off or not on the more expensive bottlings.  The point is, if a wine critic likes wines that you don’t, then their take on what constitutes a poor or great vintage may not be useful to you at all. It’s also important to remember that in regions with moderate-to-warm climates, vintage variation tends to have less impact, especially in those areas where modern winemaking techniques are widely employed.

What’s your take on vintages charts?  Boon?  Bane?  Shout it out in the comments for a chance to win!







  • phillywinefinder

    Vintage charts can help,but like almost everything in wine, can't be taken too seriously. Broad brush seems better–"everyone recognizes this as a great/poor vintage" than one person's view represented in tiny numbers and codes.

    • 1WineDude

      Yes – we must always be careful to use those superpowers for good & not evil! :-)

  • Tracy

    simple I use vintage charts for a wine I am on the fence about. I also think they are great for finding QPR wines!

    That said I enjoyed your article and your honesty regarding Wine Spectator…

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Tracy!

      Good point about helping with an on-the-fence buying decisions (especially if the price tag is high-ish). I did use some vintage chart info. on some pricey Brunello purchases a while back; I just suppose I used it so infrequently that they didn't seem worth an investment – of course, now most of them are free so why not have one I suppose, so long as you don't let it dictate your purchases, etc.


  • elvindeath

    Vintage charts are just another source of information for me. I'm much more likely to buy a wine blind if, for instance, it's from a producer I know in a vintage that is universally heralded. However, as we all know, sub-par wineries make sub-par wine in any year, and good wineries seem to make good wine in any year. All vintages do for me is act as a "multiplier" to make it more likely a given wine will be good.

  • @wineywomen

    Well funny you should mention Vintage Charts… I am trying to start cellaring my wine and waiting for the optimum time to drink.. See I just buy and drink.. I guess it isn't so bad, but I bet if I had a chart of some sort to give me an idea it would help. Although the chart probably won't help me with the area that I drink wine from, Colorado. Hey…Don't knock them until you try the real wines, not the fruity ones. We have some pretty good regular wines.. But I would be interested in being in the running for the chart. I have subscribed to WS before. It is a really big magazine and really does have some good info, especially if you are new and just wanting to start to dabble in Best Buys and such.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks winey!

  • @norcalwingman

    I've never used, nor ever really heard much about them. (I've never been a reader of WS or WE, which seems to be where they might be created). I've taken some formal courses at our local community college and they were never brought up… So, I guess like elvindeath says, it's another source of information, but it does seem to be too broad a brush, IMHO.


    • @norcalwingman

      That being said, I'm downloading the iPhone app now…

      • 1WineDude

        HA! :)

  • UnmitigatedGaul

    Vintage charts can be handy, especially a handy dandy interactive I-phone vintage chart, for all of us who have a wino reputation to uphold with our friends and really don’t bother to remember this stuff. A quick trip to the mens room and voilà, instant expert! I’ll give these vintage ratings a Face Saver Badge.

    • 1WineDude

      I like this idea of face-saver, it is also a potential "cell phone airtime minutes saver" for me because it means if my friends use those tools that they don't need to call me at odd hours for wine recco's! :-)

  • Mel

    I definitely use them, but not all the time. They're good to have around for reference for the wine regions that have a fairly big variation between vintages, but aren't as hyped up as Bordeaux/Burgundy. However, I'd be more likely to use this info when writing about wine than when I'm standing in a store or sitting in a restaurant about to make a purchase – I just can't see myself whipping out an i-Phone to check the vintage first. Half the time the vintages on those wine lists aren't accurate anyways!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Mel – interesting that you mention Burgundy, the only way I attempt the Burg is armed with someone who knows the region intimately!

  • talkavino

    I like Wine Spectator in general, and I do use their vintage charts as a reference. Same as Mel, I don't see myself reaching for the vintage chart while in the restaurant or even in the wine store. However, when deciding about buying the wine online, vintage charts are easy to access and very handy.
    And the reason I like vintage charts even more than individual wine ratings is because they represent "collective wisdom". Vintage charts are usually based on tasting of the thousands of wine from given region and given year, so they represent a broad reference base – again, this is my opinion only, YMMV.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, talkavino – great point about the potential collective wisdom angle.

  • Blind Spectator

    Vintage charts are potentially useful information, and as a science-oriented person I believe that any information should be used as long as the cost of using it doesn't outweigh the benefit. Indeed, when making "big" wine purchase decisions, they can only help. However, I find that for most practical decisions, and day-to-day wine choices, vintage charts just aren't worth the effort, and usually there are much more important factors.

  • john

    i realize screen sizes and attention spans are limited, but c’mon, “drink or hold” and a score? completely useless. a better model might be a quick summary (think MPAA or ESRB) that throws in a couple of comments about the growing conditions. you know, “2010 napa, PG13: foggy, sunburnt, premature, mild profanity, animated violence.”

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, john – the thing about drink/holdis just like a score, you need to know the reviewer and share their palate preferences for it to make sense, I think.

  • Ryan O'Connell

    I think vintage charts are gross oversimplifications. While I try to know as much as possible about vintage characteristics of regions I follow, I would rarely ever make a decision based on a vintage chart.

  • Angie Bo Bangie

    I agree with much above. I've never used a Vintage Chart, I prefer to go to tastings & buy what I like, but I can see how it may be very handy to those in the business; restaurant, Wine Bar, etc. I do have a couple favorites that sometimes I have trouble finding…having an app that would help me locate a particular wine would be more useful to me.

  • @tycheng

    Vintage charts are important (to a point). They provide a summary of vast amount of information for the beginner wine drinker.

  • islandeat

    Hi, Wine Dude. I look at vintage charts, say "hmmm", and then promptly forget all about them. Wine reviews by respected critics tend to carry a bit more weight with me. Not that charts are entirely useless, but I hardly think they are essential.



    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, all – some interesting comments about tempering the use of the charts. I suppose maybe that "sort-of" usefulness helps explain the WS app price (free)? :-)

  • Evan Dawson

    Vintage charts offer two great benefits.

    1) When you grab a bottle from your cellar and you're all, "WTF is this and how did it get here?", the vintage chart can be helpful absent any memory of why you got the wine. At least you'll know what the growing season was like. It won't perfectly predict the wine's quality, but you'll get an idea for what might be there.

    2) Wine is a story, and that story consists of people, place, and time. Time is often forgotten. John Holdredge, the outstanding cult Pinot producer in RRV, is fond of talking about a wine's sense of time. He appropriately celebrates the differences from year to year that come primarily from weather. We all should. Wine is boring and corporatized if it's always exactly the same. I don't need a vintage score, but a summary helps me understand the story.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Evan – well-stated (as always!).

      I agree fully about the lack of variation being boring. I mean, you want *some* consistency in your wine, of course, but not *total* consistency. Australia took it to far in the latter direction; Burgundy is too far in the former :-).

      • Evan Dawson

        Ha, right! I'd like to think most would agree that the best wines show consistent character while taking on different profiles inherent in the weather.

        Btw, I've seen pics of your cellar. Lots of bottles! How often do you stumble upon a bottle and say, "I have never seen this before."? It's a few times a year for me, and generally I'm not all that stoked about it… (I mean, I'm NEVER stumbling upon a bottle and saying, "Oh, sweet! Didn't know I had this Lopez de Heredia!")

  • 1WineDude

    Hi all – we have a winner! Thanks again for all of the great comments!

  • BacchusJr

    I find vintage guides, like wine reviews, to be highly subjective. I noticed today that Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson are over 10pt differant about 09 Alcase, meaning they completely disagree. Both are highly regarded. How can they be so far apart? Also noticed that according to WS all vintages are between 86 and 94. All vitages everywhere. Again, Hmmm.

    • 1WineDude

      BacchusJr – would love to say I'm surprised at that, but… Well… ;-)

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