History of Vintage Charts

Let's face it: The wine world changes so rapidly that it's practically impossible to keep track of all the wines available. In restaurants and wineshops, you'll be confronted with unfamiliar wines, some young, some older. That's where vintage charts come in: to indicate the quality of wines from a specific year and when those wines should be at their most enjoyable.

But vintage charts are a relatively recent addition to the literature of wine. Though connoisseurs have long extolled the virtues of particular vintages (the 'Comet Vintage' of 1811 was famous in its day, for example), systematic ratings lagged behind.

One of the earliest vintage charts dates to the 1930s. It was compiled by the International Wine and Food Society, a London-based group devoted to the appreciation of fine wine and food. Founded in 1933 by noted gastronome and wine writer AndrŽ Simon, the group used a rating system of 0 to 7, with three drink windows: not yet ready, mature and drink soon. This early vintage chart covered seven wine typesÑPort, claret, red and white Burgundy, Rhenish (Rhine), Sauternes and ChampagneÑfrom 1919 to 1937.

Wine Spectator's first official vintage chart was published in March 1983. It covered California Chardonnay in vintages 1974 through 1980, rating them on a 20-point scale. Our latest vintage charts, included here, cover more than 40 regions, subregions and grape varieties, and go back decades for the most ageworthy wine types.