Reserve Judgement on “Reserve” Wines
I opened a bottle of wine this weekend that had the word "Reserve" on the front label. The wine cost $9.00 It was unclear from anything written anywhere on the label just exactly what made this wine a "Reserve". I can tell you this: the quality of the wine certainly didn’t suggest this word on the label had any meaning.
However, the experiences begs the point: what does, or should" the world reserve mean on a wine label?
There is no legal meaning of the term "Reserve" when it shows up on an American wine. However, there is an implied meaning: "this wine is better than our other bottlings."
As a marketer, I’d love to see the meaning of the term "Reserve" be formalized through government regulations. And though I can almost guarantee this will never happen in this country, and though I can’t even begin to fathom the number of lawsuits that would be filed were it to become a regulated term, I do have some ideas of how the world "RESERVE" could be defined.
Selection Reserve: A wine created by selecting no more than 10% of the total wine dedicated for a separate bottling. (The implication here is that the selection process is one that looks for the best lots in cellar that will be the "big brother" bottling to a larger production wine.)
Cellar Reserve: A wine created using specific production techniques different from those normally used that are expected to create a wine of higher quality. Such techniques might include but not limited to using only free run juice, whole cluster fermentation, no fining or filtering, using only new oak barrels. (The implications here are that certain cellar techniques can help create a wine similar in character to the bigger brother wine but will have special qualities due to cellar techniques)
Vineyard Reserve: A wine created by choosing grapes from no more than 10% of a specific vineyard or set of vineyards that show a higher quality prior to harvesting. (The implications here is that a vineyard will produce higher quality grapes in part of the vineyard that if segregated from the rest of the harvested grapes will create a better wine than if all the grapes were used together to make a wine.)
Again, as a marketer of wine it appeals to me to have terms that deliver actual meaning. Of course, were this sort of state regulation to occur, you can be sure that new names with similar implications in their meaning would show up on bottles: Vintner’s Selection, Cellar Choice, Winemaker’s Offering, etc.
The term "Reserve" obviously has real implications for quality at a number of wineries. You can count on these wines being a step up from regular bottlings. But this is hardly the case across the board. And as a word to the wise, lower your expectations for "reserve" bottlings that cost $9.00.