Vintage On Wine is Less Important Today

It appears the feds have approved new rules that will allow a winery to now only need 85% of a wine to come from a particular vintage in order for it to put that vintage date on its bottle. The rule had been 95% from a single vintage with up to 5% coming from other vintages.

However, it appear the new 85-15 rule does not apply to wines with an American Viticultural Area designation on the label. This means that wines from "Sonoma Valley" or "Sonoma Coast" or "Napa Valley" or "Santa Lucia Highlands" still need to have 95% of the wine coming from a single vintage in order to wear that vintage on the label.

The new law will affect those making wines that carry the "California" or a county designation.

I’m try to muster some sort of bluster about this dilution of the vintage laws but I just can’t. Wines that carry "California" on the label have for some time been cheap, often sweet, wine-laden alcohol delivery vehicles. Often tasty, but rarely unique. I really don’t care what vintage these wines carry on them. Their job is not to offer the unique pleasures of a growing season’s results, but rather to induce the swallow reflex in our throats, wet the whistle, dull reality and put smiles on our faces.

The new rules will give makers of cheap "California"-labeled wines more flexibility in crafting blends and altering the style of the wines they make, as well as save money. And, the new rule will cost growers income in less desirable areas, particularly when they are trying to sell grapes in a year following a large crop.

The lesson here is that we ought to respect the political power of Gallo, the Wine institute and other humongous wine makers who wanted special rules to make their bottom line blacker.

2 Responses

  1. Rick - May 3, 2006

    With last years bumper crop, it looks like we’ll be seeing 2005’s for quite some time, even if it’s not all 2005.

  2. Al - May 3, 2006

    My prediction:
    85% 2005 (majority share to carry v.2005)
    10% 2004 (to use up excess wines)
    5% 2006 (to balance the tired wine added)
    Overall effect will probably be undetected to the consumers.
    Can’t say I can get angry about it. Might make for some nice blends in the end, and only time will tell.
    The question is will the wineries be more competitive – and better still, will they then drop prices?

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