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Booming Burgundy Wine

Expertise and Technology Have Created Burgundy's Greatest Run Of Vintages Ever, And 1997 Promises to Preserve the Streak

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Portland, Oregon-based Matt Kramer is a columnist for Wine Spectator. They Were Very Good Years

The very word "vintage" spooks wine buyers. There's always a niggling fear that you're not getting the right year. The word itself somehow connotes quality: "a vintage year." In fact, a vintage is simply the year of the harvest.

Vintage literally means "harvest," from the Latin vindemia, grape gathering. In Italian, it's vendemmia; in Spanish, vendimia; in French, vendange. Only in English does "vintage" refer to a year on a label.

In France, a Burgundian will talk about 1996 as "une trés bonne année" because it was "une grande vendange." Somehow, all this got lost in translation, resulting in our muddled, yet resonant phrase, "a vintage year." (The California wine industry used to crow that "every year is a vintage year.")

However you use the term, the table at right of vintage ratings compiled by the tasting panel of Wine Spectator magazine illustrates Burgundy's almost unblemished run of quality over a 12-year span.

Vintage Ratings 95-100, classic; 90-94, outstanding; 80-89, good to very good; 70-79, average; 60-69, below average; 50-59, poor.
*1996 vintages were rated from barrel tastings and therefore are expressed in a range.

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