I have been asked to review this for a while now. There is a lot of confusion and a lot of deception used by many wineries in order to get the attention of a wine buyer. Pretty, fun or exciting labeling grabs your attention, but if you cut through all that and give the label a real good look, you may find a couple things that may change your decision to actually drink it. Here are some things you should LOOK FOR and others you should AVOID.
Here is the label of a very small production wine from a high quality producer.
This is what you SHOULD look for.
How would you know this a high quality bottle?
FRONT LABEL – First Impressions
1. “Peterson Vineyard” – The actual vineyard name is right on the front of the bottle. They obviously have a bit of pride when it comes to the vineyard they used.
2. It comes from the Sonoma Coast AVA, typically an area where winemakers do not mass produce grapes due to extreme weather and wine-making conditions.
3. The back label is riddled with information for real enthusiasts. Every grape type in the vineyard they picked, the types of barrels they used (which a real wine lover should always keep in mind), even the total amount produced…some wineries produce so much wine they know a general idea of how much of a wine made. In this example, only 193 cases were made. This vintage was only 8 barrels total. This would allow the winemaker to really take extra special care of every detail like temperature, oxygen levels, etc.
With a wine like this, every step of the process is a deliberate act to create something special.
AN EXAMPLE THAT GIVES YOU NOTHING…BUT MARKETING SAVVY:
This is a wine that you probably will never know a single thing about…I scratched out the names so I would not offend anyone….It may have been bottled by a company in Napa, but you don’t know if it was made by them, if it was actually grown by them.
You may be aware of the presence of 3 varietals in this bottle.
Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet…..Sauvignon…But there are NO PERCENTAGES. These varietals taste completely different from one another, and a percentage here or a percentage there could completely change the taste of the wine. This is VERY important in some circumstances. If a wine is hugely mass produced, these percentages will vary drastically during the production of 300k+ cases of the same wine. That’s over 1000 barrels of wine all premixed in massive vats so that production is as quick as possible and as economic as possible. 2 bottles of the same wine on the same shelf could taste COMPLETELY different.
It came from California…
That doesn’t mean it will be good….it’s from somewhere within the borders of the 163,696 SQUARE MILE state, and it was made from the vintage year on the bottle. That’s about all you’ve got. For all you know, they bought a HUGE amount of juice from wine-growers in the worst wine-growing region in California and then marketed for the masses. I am not saying that every “California” designated wine will be bad, but it is crucial to know where a winery sources their grapes from. A wine with a specific appellation (Sonoma Coast) will ensure a higher quality or even a political region specification (Sonoma County).
Look for specifics. I’m not saying that wineries that keep things minimal on their labels are bad, but on any good bottle of wine, you will find things like appellation and understandable varietal information. If you know what you enjoy (Varietal, Appellation, type of oak, high or low sugar, etc) you should be able to find it. If you can’t find it, then don’t buy it, or at least do a little research online or by calling the winery to ask for specifics. If you can’t find answers there, then steer clear.
AS ALWAYS : If you aren’t currently following THE VINTAGE….ya..just do that.
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