Italian Red Wine Vintage Chart: 2000-2022 Selections  

Italian Red Wine Vintage Chart: 2000-2022 Selections

This article was previously published on Mamablip in March 2022. It was written by Lele Gobbi and updated by Raffaele Mosca.

Every vintage of every wine comes with its own trend, its individual evolution, its pricepoint, and the reputation that accompanies these bottles.  For these reasons, vintage plays a primarily role in the development of a wine’s personality.  This notion is so strong that it can even prevail over the concept of a “cru.”

How does vintage affect wine?

Wine experts note that similarities abound amongst wines of different crus produced in the same year, whereas wines of the same cru yet produced in different vintages show greater differences. Local climatic conditions are what determines the final results, so there are never going to be two different vintages with identical characteristics.  Thus, a winemaker will never be able to produce “twin” variations of the same wine.

This concept is a testament to the magic of nature that has such a decisive effect on the maturation and ripening of grapes, much more so than on other types of fruit. This could also be possibly thanks to the relatively brief maturation process of grapes, which lasts only about 1.5 months.

During the harvest season, everything in a vineyard can be compromised by bad weather (as has happened in the past, with sudden hailstorms or unseasonal cold weather). Alternatively, warm conditions with a lot of sun exposure can lead to the over-ripening of the grapes.

A stunning vintage can be followed by a terrible vintage, without rhyme or reason, and without any predictability on this issue. While studies abound trying to identify signals, the only thing we can say with any certainty is that today’s climatic changes and conditions will have an effect on the current cycle of vintage production.

A close-up of a natural cork stopper, highlighting its textured surface and cylindrical shape.

How to Think About Wine Vintages?

There’s no question that judiciously evaluating the quality and hierarchy of wine vintages remains a subjective and abstract concept. Perhaps one of the most fundamental instructions is the need to judge wines retrospectively, trying to imagine them from the beginning of their lives. Possibly even more challenging is the attempt to envision how a wine will evolve in the future, as it fulfills its potential in more recent vintages.

Following the notion that “there are no bad vintages, only difficult vintages,” it’s clear that modern winemaking techniques allow vintners to make up for challenging conditions.

What Do Winemakers Do to Improve Wine Taste?

Improvements of a technical vantage-point mean that wine-makers can extract the very best elements from an insufficient raw material, allowing for a better result than would be otherwise achieved.

 It is often said, however, that the true talent of a winemaker lies in a difficult raw material:  if the wine-maker can create a memorable wine in a notoriously difficult vintage, his talent is irrefutable.

Making a terrific wine in an alleged great vintage is something that can happen to anyone, by chance, fortuitously. It’s another story to make a great wine when the vintage is reportably terrible. Part of this wine-making process is the need to change and challenge many people’s (including wine critics and experts) prejudices and preconceptions. If you’re drinking a wine because of its label, and because of the chatter focusing on that wine, you might be one of the people who need to vacillate from your preconceptions of what makes a wine great.

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Can a great wine be made from and with a bad vintage? 

Let’s focus on the great red wines from the equally impressive areas of Tuscany (where we find the Chianti Classico and the Montalcino wines), Piedmont (for its Langhe area), and the Veneto region (home to the Valpolicella area).

Selections such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Barbaresco, and Amarone (some more and some less, relative to the wines), cannot and must not fear time. These are wines capable of evolving in their bottles, growing in intensity and complexity.

A great vintage accentuates this characteristic, making them even more long-lived. Over the last 20 years, there have been many vintages considered qualitatively excellent.

Wine bottles neatly arranged on shelves in an enoteca

What Year Wine is Best? An Overview of Vintage Years

The past has not always guaranteed the same success rates. So, which ones can we count on?

2000: great vintage for Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarone; excellent for Chianti Classico; good for Brunello.

2001: excellent for Chianti Classico, Barolo, and Barbaresco; excellent for Brunello; good for Amarone.

2002: mediocre for all wines; fair for Chianti Classico; however, very difficult for all wines.

2003: fair for Chianti Classico; very difficult for all wines.

2004: excellent for Brunello and Barolo; great for Barbaresco and Chianti Classico; very good for Amarone.

2005: excellent for Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello; good for Amarone and Chianti Classico.

2006: excellent for all.

2007: excellent for all; very good for Brunello.

2008: excellent for Amarone, Barolo, and Barbaresco; very good for Chianti Classico and Brunello.

2009: excellent for Brunello, Amarone, and Chianti Classico; good for Barolo and Barbaresco.

2010: excellent for Amarone, Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco; excellent for Chianti Classico.

2011: excellent for Amarone; good for all the others.

2012: excellent for Amarone and Brunello; good for Chianti Classico, Barolo, and Barbaresco.

2013: excellent for Chianti Classico; excellent for Amarone and Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco.

2014: good for Amarone; fair-to-difficult for Brunello and Chianti Classico, Barolo, and Barbaresco.

2015: excellent for Amarone, Chianti Classico, and Brunello; very good for Barolo and Barbaresco.

2016: excellent for all.

2017: good for Chianti Classico; fairly difficult for Amarone, Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco.

2018: excellent for Chianti Classico; good for all the others.

2019: excellent for all.

2020: excellent for Chianti Classico; good for Barolo and Barbaresco.

2021: excellent for Chianti Classico.

2022: good for Chianti Classico.

We’ve got a recurring joke about the overuse of the word ‘excellent,’ but it truly reflects the high quality of these vintages