Wine labels: What it says vs. What it means

With Thanksgiving next week, many of us are headed to the wine store to grab a few bottles to drink up at the family table. And while I could write a thing on how Pinot Noir, or a Syrah-Grenache-Mourvedre blend pairs well with turkey (which they do),

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I thought I should help you out on picking that wine yourself. Wine labels can be flashy or stuffy, cute or coy. But they have rules about what is on the label. These rules determine what the label says, but there is often more behind it.

There is often a difference between what it says on a wine label, and what that actually means.

Here are a few examples to help you out this week:

Estate: 100% was grown here, or in vineyards we control

California Cabernet Sauvignon: At least 75% is California Cabernet Sauvignon (Feds say that is the minimum)

Oregon Pinot Noir: At least 85% is Oregon Pinot Noir (Oregon is picky like that)

2015: At least 85% of this wine is from 2015 (but we could make it more mature or younger by 15% if we like)

Bottle by Winery X: Someone else made the wine, but we at Winery X bought it and put it in the bottle!

Cellared (or Vinted) and Bottled by Winery X: Someone else made the wine, but we atWinery X bought it, stored and or blended it and put it in the bottle, it was still quite a bit of work.

Produced by Winery X: We did it all, bitches!

Grown and Produced by Winery X: We even grew the grapes, y’all!

ABC Valley: At least 75% is from ABC Valley, other 25% could be from anywhere else in the world (and they say Chinese wine tastes off, not at 25%)

13% Alc/Vol: The alcohol is about 13% give or take a bit

14.2% Alc/Vol: The alcohol is at least 14% and the Feds make us pay more taxes because of it

Reserve California Wine: We think it’s fancy

Reserve Spanish or Italian Wine: We met multiple governmental standards and aged this wine 2–3 years, respect it!

Tastes of apple, honey, butterscotch, and the essence of dried Daphne orchids on the finish: Our winemaker tastes these things in the wine and while you may not be able to, we think it will sell the wine to tell you about it.

Organic: We have met a shit ton of standards and the government keeps checking up on us. Oh and it only has naturally produced sulfites, which is what you think gives you a headache, but it doesn’t. Drink more water!

Natural: The TTB said our wine was made in a natural way and after a forest worth of paperwork, they allowed us to put this on the label.

Bio-dynamic: We create wine in accordance with a natural cycle aligning with the moon and its phases. This may have involved burying cow horns full of manure in the vineyard under crystals and dancing naked in the moonlight.

CONTAINS SULFITES: The government made us put this here because we add a natural preservative since we don’t want the wine to spoil. No it’s not what gives you headaches, go drink more water.

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) ACCORDING TO THE SURGEON GENERAL, WOMEN SHOULD NOT DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES DURING PREGNANCY BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF BIRTH DEFECTS. (2) CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE A CAR OR OPERATE MACHINERY, AND MAY CAUSE HEALTH PROBLEMS.: The government made us put this here. Act like an adult and understand that this is alcohol.

Ok, that’s all from this turkey! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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