Beginners in the wine world may wonder what makes a particular vintage more popular.  The clear answer is it tastes better!  The question is, why?  Why does the year matter when it is the same varietal from the same winery?

The first and probably most apparent reason is that weather patterns change from year to year affecting the quality of the grapes used to produce the wine. If the wine region receives too much or too little rain or too much or too little sunshine, the quality of the grape and the quality of the wine will be affected.

The changes in weather patterns will have a more dramatic effect on old world wines then new world wines, because of the regulations preventing the use of systems such as irrigation in many old world regions (Burgundy for example).  While new world countries like Argentina and Chile can use irrigation to get the right amount of water to the vines, old world countries like France and Italy need to have Mother Nature on their side each growing season.

Another reason why the flavor of the wine may change from year to year is a change in the production process of the wine.  Although wineries do not usually make many changes between years, they may have changed to a new set of oak barrels that year giving the oak a stronger influence on the current vintage than the year before.

A great way to learn how wine can change from year to the other is to participate in or create your own a vertical wine tasting.  In a vertical tasting you compare several vintages of one wine varietal from one winery.  For example, you could buy an Argentine Malbec from the same line of wines from 2006 to 2010.  This allows you to taste how the wine has changed from year to year.  If you attend a vertical wine tasting in Argentina, ask the winery about their growing seasons or if they made any production changes between years.  Just remember the differences will probably not be as dramatic as if you did a vertical wine tasting of an old world wine because new world wine producers are not as dependent on Mother Nature.