- The weather during the growing season
- Vintners' reports on the conditions, crop and young wines
- Most importantly, our tastings of the wines from that vintage
Weather data (such as average temperature, rainfall, severe storms or frost) can help create an overall picture of a vintage, its character and quality. Cool, rainy years often produce light, early-maturing wines. In contrast, extremely hot, dry years can yield unbalanced wines that don't benefit from aging.
Interviews with growers and winemakers help to complete the picture. For example, if they report a larger-than-average crop, that can explain why the wines show signs of dilution in our blind tastings. Experienced vintners can compare the current harvest with past vintages, a valuable way to assess quality and provide perspective. Their opinions are based on weather conditions, the quality and maturity of the grapes at harvest and their evaluations of the young wines.
But all this information can be used only as supporting evidence. What counts is how good the wines are in the bottle. Above all, we evaluate vintage quality based on how the wines show in our blind tastings. It takes time and hard work to accumulate enough tasting notes to make an accurate generalization about vintage quality. In most cases, we taste hundreds of wines before rating a vintage; at a minimum, for small subregions, we sample dozens of wines.
We then analyze our tastings, looking at the number of classic (95 to 100 points) and outstanding (90 to 94 points) ratings and the average score of all wines tasted from the given vintage. The number of low-scoring wines is equally informative.
Finally, we rate the vintage. There are no formulas that generate these vintage ratings. In the end, our ratings reflect not simply a statistical equation, but our editors' judgments based on long experience of overall quality and style.