Of course, anyone with an understanding of how wine works will know that a vino's vintage refers to the year that its grapes were grown and harvested, and it's common to hear of a connoisseur talking of a 'bad' or 'good' year.
A wine's vintage can markedly affect how it is received when the bottles are finally released for sale.
If it has come from a good year - which typically refers to light rains during spring, a sunny, dry summer (that wasn't too hot) and a rainless autumn for a perfect harvest - then the wine is set for a marvellous future.
Should it come from a prestigious vineyard that carries a revered name, it can expect to command a high price, with no shortage of buyers. For a wine that had a less-than-fantastic upbringing, though, the future is a little bleaker. Why?
Bad, as in good?
Many wine collectors - even experienced and knowledgeable ones - are of the opinion that no matter the reputation of a winemaker, they cannot overcome a particularly bad year.
Often, they'd rather take a chance on a case from a little-known vintner of a well-regarded year than purchase a bad-year bottle from an established vineyard - perhaps understandable in the circumstances.
The truth is that collectors could be missing out on some superb wines by following this rationale, as outstanding vinos regularly spring from perceived poor years - sometimes at discounted prices, too. This is especially true for bordeaux wine.
There are a multitude of factors that can affect vintage.
Growing conditions, weather patterns and plain old luck in timing all play a part. What might have been a terrible year in Bordeaux may well be an excellent one in the Hunter Valley - these regions are on opposite sides of the planet, after all!
Even so, a vintner with a modicum of winemaking expertise will always work with what he or she has, and use what the elements bring to create an agreeable wine regardless.
Defying Mother Nature for great wine, every time
Frosted vines in Chablis – a disaster
picture by A.Ibanez
The weather certainly plays a big part in any given vino's overall quality, but there are still several other factors of wine production that can markedly make a difference.
The precise day on which the grapes are picked, the kind of yeast used, as well as the species of oak chosen for the cask (English, sessile or cork?) will all influence how the final product will taste.
A good winemaker will use everything in their arsenal to ensure that their product is as high a quality as possible.
Into Wine compares an experienced vintner to a professional airline pilot. The latter needs to be prepared for unpredictable conditions during the flight, such as heavy turbulence and storms, and will change their approach accordingly to ensure that they land the plane (and deliver their passengers) safely.
So, great wine from 'bad' vintages certainly exists, and because 'poor years' never generate the same level of interest as a good year, prices are often very, very low.
This means that you can stock up your Vintec home wine cellar with a number of beautiful wines at a fraction of the cost.