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Vintage Date

A "Vintage Date" is shown on many bottles of wine. The vintage date indicates the year in which the grapes were harvested.

The one exception is for very late harvested wines in Europe such as 'eiswein' (or 'icewine' in Canada). Even though the harvest of the grapes may extend past January 1st, the wine still carries the vintage year of the year in which the grape were grown.

In the Northern Hemisphere, grapes are usually harvested between August through October (depending on the grape variety and local climate). Grapes harvested in October of 2003 will carry the 2003 vintage date even though the finished wine may not be released until 2004 (or even 2005 for many red wines).

In the Southern Hemisphere, grapes are harvested from February though April. Wines made from grapes harvested in March of 2003 will carry the 2003 vintage date no matter when the finished wines are released.

Regulations in the United States require that 95 percent of the grapes used to make a wine must come the harvest in the labeled vintage year. Many countries have similar regulations to allow winemakers a little leeway but still maintain the integrity of the vintage date.

Wines bearing a Vintage Date on the label are usually of higher quality than "non-vintage" wines. This is not always the case, but usually you will find that wines that offer greater specificity of information about the vintage or source of the grapes will be of higher quality.