What’s in a wine label? Loads of information. There’s a brand name or producer, of course, and a geographic description of origin. A year, if the wine is vintage-dated, and perhaps the name of a grape. And the percentage of alcohol by volume – often in type so small that mere mortals can barely read it.
Then there are the optional terms, like “estate bottled” or the name of a specific vineyard. These give consumers additional information about what’s in the bottle, but do those buyers even understand or care?
First, some definitions. “Estate bottled,” according to federal regulations, means that the winery grew all the grapes on land it owns or controls and that the winery crushed, fermented, aged and bottled the wine in a continuous process on its premises. Both the winery and the vineyard must be in the viticultural area (such as “Napa Valley”) stated on the label. (The term “estate grown” has the same definition, according to a government spokesman.)
When a label includes the name of a vineyard, federal regulations require that at least 95 percent of the grapes used be grown in the named vineyard. Such wines are often called “single vineyard” or “vineyard designate” wines.
Winery representatives – owners, winemakers, marketing professionals – don’t necessarily agree on how well understood the terms are, but they use them for a variety of reasons. And some research indicates that the presence of “estate bottled” on a label is important to members of the trade who sell wine.
Christian Miller of Full Glass Research said members of the trade – retailers, on-premise and wholesalers – were asked in a Wine Opinions survey what factors were important in choosing and selling a $20-$40 Cabernet Sauvignon. “The factors fell into three rough tiers,” he said; an estate-bottled designation was in the second most important tier. The designation, he added, “clearly set the wine apart from brands” because an estate-bottled wine is more limited.
Miller said he hasn’t done any specific research on the value of a vineyard designation, but his “gut-level reaction” is that including the name of a vineyard “is a clue that the wine is more upscale, prestigious or higher quality.” This is especially true when the vineyard is well-known. He cautioned, however, that this applies only to frequent or high-end consumers, not to all wine drinkers.
To read the complete article, which appears in the July-August issue of Beverage Dynamics magazine, click here.