Monday, November 21, 2011

What's in a label?

Here’s some clarification to help you better understand wine labels.
~Vintage: The year designates the year that the grapes were harvested. 15% of the grapes used in the blend can be from a different year if the wine is not claiming an AVA, American Viniculture Area. To be AVA-specific 95% of the grapes must be from that stated vintage.

~Appellation of Origin: California State Law requires that 100% of the grapes be from California. Nearly all other states only require that 75% of the fruit comes from within that named state. Since 1983, 85% of the grapes must come from the named region, for example Napa Valley.

~Wine Type: Wine labels used to only have to contain 51% of the varietal listed. Beginning in 1983, wines that used a specific varietal name, Cabernet Sauvignon instead of Red Wine, for example, must contain 75% of that varietal in the blend.

~Vineyard of Origin: Wineries often list the vineyard in which the grapes were grown because the vineyard has a reputation for producing high-quality grapes. Federal policy requires that 95% of the grapes must have been grown in the vineyard listed.

~Producer & Bottler: This part of the label must indicate the bottler and its location.
1) Produced and bottled by: guarantees the bottler fermented 75% or more of the wine.
2) Cellared and bottled: states that the bottler has aged the wine or subjected it to cellar treatment before bottling.
3) Made and bottled: indicates that the bottler fermented at least 75% of the wine.
4) Bottled by: says that the winery bottled the wine, which may have been grown, crushed, fermented, finished and aged by someone else.

~Estate Bottled: This term is optional. However it certifies that legally, the winery grew 100% of the grapes on land it owns or controls and states that the winery crushed, fermented, finished, aged and bottled the wine in a continues process. Both winery and vineyard must be located in the same viticultural area stated on the label.
~Alcohol Content: This is mandatory and indicates the alcohol content by volume, with a tolerance of plus or minus 1.5%

~Net Contents: The fluid volume in the metric measurement must be indicated either on the label or blown into the glass.

~Declaration of Sulfites: Beginning in 1988, wines which have a level of 10 parts per million or greater of sulfur dioxide must be labeled with a sulfite declaration. For all practical purposes, this means just about every wine commercially available.

~Government Warning: All wines bottled after November 18th, 1989 must bear the Federal warning.