Do Wines Under $10 Really Need a Vintage?
It is not required for a wine to have a vintage date, but if it does, 95% of the wine must come from the stated vintage. There are examples of wines (like Rosenblum Zinfandel Cuvee) that are quite good, and quite successful and don't use a vintage date (rather a consistent style), however non-vintage wines are more commonly in "jug" or "boxed" wines.
Now granted, I do want to know what the year was for a Napa Cab or a Santa Barbara Pinot, but does it make a difference to the majority of consumers at the sub $10 price point? Wouldn't it be easier to just allow the wineries to voluntarily show the vintage date or, as an alternative, use a "born on date" to prevent consumers from getting 5 year-old Sutter Home White Zin?
It seems to me, that like the recent controversy over vintage dating, this will be opposed by grape growers. The reason is that, during a period of oversupply (as we have just gone through), wineries can use cheap bulk wine still sitting in tanks instead of having to buy grapes from the current vintage. The result of this would be that the bulk wine market and the grape market would have similar pricing - during 2002-2004, you could buy Chardonnay wine for a fraction of the equivalent price of grapes - and this would be very unfavorable to grape growers.
Personally, I think the two should stay in balance and that over the long term, it would actually buffer these huge swings in under/oversupply, thus making the growers much happier, with more stable income. Alas, this will probably not be the case....