Wine Talk

Snooth User: MeravSomm

Year Label?

Posted by MeravSomm, Dec 26, 2014.

Hi All, 

 

I hope you all have great Holiday season.

I bought some Champagne and other sparkling white wine today and for the first time noticed there is no year indicated on the label. I haven't noticed that before.

I am guessing it is only new to me.

But I wonder why not all wines indicate the year and what does it mean, if at all.

Thanks for your input.

Happy New Year!

 

Merav

 

Replies

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Reply by EMark, Dec 26, 2014.

Happy Holidays to you, also, Merav.

To answer your question, I might point you to the Champagne entry in Wikipedia, from which I have extracted this:

Most of the Champagne produced today is "Non-vintage", meaning that it is a blended[35] product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10–15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages.[24] If the conditions of a particular vintage are favourable, some producers will make a "Vintage" wine that must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from vintage year.[36] Under Champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage's harvest for the production of vintage Champagne. This allows at least 20% of the harvest from each vintage to be reserved for use in non-vintage Champagne. This ensures a consistent style that consumers can expect from non-vintage Champagne that does not alter too radically depending on the quality of the vintage. In less than ideal vintages, some producers will produce a wine from only that single vintage and still label it as non-vintage rather than as "vintage" since the wine will be of lesser quality and the producers have little desire to reserve the wine for future blending.

 

 

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Reply by MeravSomm, Dec 26, 2014.

Thanks MARK.

So if I get it correctly, for Champagne only, when they use a mix of vintage and and non-vintage year, they would not list the year unless it has at least 80% of the vintage grapes? and that, only if they choose to.

 

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Reply by EMark, Dec 26, 2014.

85%

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Reply by GregT, Dec 27, 2014.

But it's not Champagne only. In past generations they were less worried about fidelity to a vintage than we are and there are places where that's still so - sherry for instance. But the thing about Champagne is that it's not really a good region for growing grapes and for the most part, people focused on a house style and that was the marketing of Champagne. Now, with global warming and better vinification, people are being told something completely different - you have grower Champagnes and single vintage bottles and of COURSE it's better when it's from a single vineyard and/or a single vintage.

See how that works? Whatever you can't do isn't necessary anyway until you figure out how to do it, at which point it becomes essential.

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 27, 2014.

Greg,  that's lawyerin' talk.

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Reply by EMark, Dec 27, 2014.

The 85% rule for Champagne vintage dating brought up the question in my mind about the regulations in other regions.  I was just going to pose the question to GregT because his responses are usually pretty reliable (Darren's sarcasm notwithstanding), but then I figured that I might as well at least try to find out on my own.  Wikipedia gave me as much information as I was seeking:

  • U.S. -- 85% unless the wine is AVA-designated in which case the bar is moved up to 95%
     
  • E.U., Australia and New Zealand -- 85%
     
  • South Africa, Chile -- 75%

Of course, the exception for the AVA-designated wines in the US led me to the question of the minimum AVA content for an AVA-designated, wine and the answer to that is 85%.  

 

Everything below is tongue in cheek.  In spite of my tendency to appreciate precision, I really do not lose sleep about things like this.

So, 85% of the grapes used for a 2010 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon were grown and harvested in the Stag's Leap District of Napa Valley.  If the remaining 15% came from the Temecula Valley, then either of the following scenarios would allow for the labeling of the wine to specifiy 2010 Stag's Leap:

  • If 100% of the Stag's Leap grapes were harvested in 2010, then at least 2/3 of the Temecula grapes were harvested in 2010.
     
  • If all the Temecula grapes were harvested in 2010, then at least 74.12% of the Stag's Leap grapes must have been harvested in 2010. 

Now, when you consider that in the U.S. a wine in the U.S. can be labeled as a varietal if its content is only 75% of a single grape variety, you can see that the variations can start to be complicated.

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Reply by GregT, Dec 27, 2014.

D - It's wine regulation talk!

Can't chaptalize in CA. Why? Well, when they made the rule, most grapes were grown in pretty warm regions.

Can't acidify in Germany. Why? Well, it's pretty cold there and you're lucky the grapes ripen so there's always going to be good acidity.

Whoops! 

"Crap. Just had a record hot year!!! (2003). Let's change the law for this year."

"OK."

Can't acidify in Burgundy if you also chaptalize. You can only do one or the other. See, it's all about the terroir! That's why Burgundy is so great. Add a little sugar or a little tartaric acid and man oh man that wine is made in the vineyard! It's freakishly cheap for the quality you get. Check out the price of a nice DRC to get an idea.

That's why I love the Italians so much. A lot of the time you can be pretty sure that your grapes are all from Italy, or at least some Mediterranean country, and that your Tuscan olive oil is mostly going to be Italian if you define "Italian" to mean any land that was once part of the Roman Empire. That way you know you're always getting the best!

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Reply by GregT, Dec 27, 2014.

Emark - here's a link to Napa Valley Vinters

http://www.napavintners.com/wines/how_to_read_a_wine_label.asp

The rules vary in other states. In WA and OR for example, the requirements for variety percentages are different - the US has a federal standard but you're free to develop more restrictive standards within your region if you want.

Same in Spain and France. The addition of some non-vintage wine isn't all that big a deal though - you might want to top off your barrels with something for example. In Champagne, as in Jerez, the idea was to create a house style, which is a little different and I'm not sure it's a bad idea. I guess I'd rather have them mix vintages than add sugar or acid or color to make consistent wines from year to year.

And then when you get a wine like an Unico that is a blend of vintages, or some of the wines that Heitz used to do that were blends of multiple vintages, you realize it's a shame people don't do more of it.

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Reply by EMark, Dec 27, 2014.

Once again my California-centric bigotry has been exposed.

What you are pointing out regarding states being allowed to have more stringent standards or countries having more stringent standards, makes perfect sense Greg.  I know, for example, that Washington defines the meaning of the word "Reserve" on a label, but that word is no legally defined for California wines.

I enjoyed reading the linked Napa Vintners paper.  I did not know that "Wine Type" and "Appellation of Origin" were required.  However, I would now really like to pick your brain a bit.

The "Producer and Bottler" section was interesting to me because I have noticed the different wordings on labels.  

To me the definitions that they give for "Produced and Bottled" and "Made and Bottled" sound the same.  Are they?  Or does the use of the word "certifies" in the "Produced" case carry more meaning that the use of the word "indicates" in the "Made" case?

In the case of "Cellared and Bottled" is it assumed that the cellarer is the fermenter or is it assumed that the cellarer is not the fermenter or is there nothing that can be assumed about the fermenter?

In the "Alcohol Content" section, I think the last sentence is pretty confusing:

Finally, a wine that is 14% or less alcohol by volume can be labeled “table wine” without any notation of the numeric alcohol content.

To me that means that wine that has an ABV of less than 14% does not have to print the ABV percentage.  I cannot remember the last bottle of wine that I saw that did not have that number.  What subtlety is in that sentence that I am missing? Or ar the makers of something with 13% ABV trying to attract Rajat Parr or IPOB fans?

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Reply by GregT, Dec 28, 2014.

OK now that's lawyerin' talk! Not fair since I'm midway through a Napa Cab. But I'll give it a shot.

“Grown by” means they grew the grapes.

“Produced by” means they converted the fruit juice into wine.

“Bottled by” means they put the wine in bottles.It doesn't mean that they grew or produced the wine. They could buy a container from another country and bottle it.

“Estate bottled,” means that the winery listed on the label controlled or grew the grapes, produced or made the wine, and bottled it in the place indicated on the label

"Made by" and "produced by" are essentially the same thing, unless I'm sadly mistaken.

Imports are worse.

“Imported by,” tells you the name of the importer. Some labels also say “imported and distributed by," which would indicate it's the same company. But you can use any of the foregoing. So theoretically, you can import wine, bottle it, and distribute it, but not produce it..

"Cellared" is kind of rare. It really matters in places like Jerez - you can be licensed to grow, produce, or age the wines. Some people do every step, others only one or two.

This is what the feds require. When you get into producing your own wine, you'll have to know all this stuff!!!

http://www.ttb.gov/pdf/brochures/p51901.pdf

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Reply by dmcker, Dec 28, 2014.

Probably a little more than the OP, our new visitor to the Forum, imagined when he asked the question...

 

;-)

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 28, 2014.

My name's Dick and I LOVE wine!

I'm still in Seattle, on tablet (don't know how to cut and paste with it), but I can post BC's regulations for interest's sake.  The crappiest wine in BC is actually called Cellared in Canada, but it's typically made entirely of plonk from anywhere but.

Christmas gifts I received included a 2001 Bertani Amarone and a 2000 Fanti (Tenuta San Filipo) Brunello and of course JD's G. Conterno barbera d'alba.   What a lucky guy!

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Reply by GregT, Dec 28, 2014.

"My name's Dick and I LOVE wine!"

Start a blog!

Just remember, you're a guy, so your blog can't be about demystifying wine. You have to adopt a pose of too cool for cool, all casual.

BTW  - good wines. Any of them to be "Cellared in Canada"?

Poor OP. I wish there were a way to see if any of them ever log back in.

 

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Reply by EMark, Dec 28, 2014.

Greg, once again, thank you for another detailed explanation.  It looks like you and I are on the same page regarding "Produced" and "Made" being synonyms.

I am still wrapped around the being able to omit the ABV % for wines < 14%, but, thanks to the brochure you linked, and what appears to be a TTB PowerPoint presentation that I found, I think I have a reasonable theory.

Looking at the brochure they have a sample label with explanations of the various fields.  Notice that the ABV on this example is 13.5%.  Since that is less than 14% why couldn't they just print the words "Table Wine" on the label and not print the ABV %?  On the right side of the display they have an arrow pointing to the words "Cabernet Sauvignon" with the explanation of the "Varietal" description. The following paragraph lists "Other Designation" which discusses the use of "Table Wine" (and "Dessert Wine').  My guess is even though I would consider a Cabernet Sauvignon to be a Table Wine, I understand that using the varielal nomenclature rather than the generic "Table Wine" is going to give the wine more cache, will attract a different buyer and will command a higher price.  Using the varietal description, therefore, requires the printing of the ABV %.

There are some other interesting tidbits in the ppt file.

Some years ago a colleague and I were joined by a customer group at a wine bar.  The leader of the customer group was a gregarious and, who's kidding who, pompous guy.  He was very wine knowledgeable, although, as usual, he did not know as much as he thought.  Regardless, he was the customer.  So, as far as I was concerned, nothing that he spoke would be challenged.

He told us that the ABV % must be printed on the "Front Label," but then he showed us a bottle in which the ABV was not printed on the Front Label, but rather on the "Back Label."  He said that they circumvented the rule by declaring that to be the "Front Label."  If you look at slide 16 of the ppt file, you'll see that ABV % must be printed on the "Brand Label," not the "Front Label."  I haven't found the definition of "Brand Label," but that is another mystery that has been resolved in my mind. 

On Slide 19 they indicate that "Produced" and "Made" are synonyms.  It also appears that "Cellared," "Vinted" and "Prepared" are synonyms.

On slide 21 Net Contents can be printed on the label or etched/blown on the bottle and must be specified in ml or mL for bottles less than one liter.  I know I have seen Net Contents expressed in cl.  Sure enough, every one of about a half dozen, or so, French and Italian wines in my inventory has "75 cl" blown into the glass, but they also have "750 ml" printed on the label.

Slide 26 on the Health Warning Statement--the words "Government Warning" must be printed in upper case and must be printed in bold font.  The leading "S" and "G" in "Surgeon General" must be in upper case. I guess I was aware of the use of the bold font, but it looks this warning on every bottle in my inventory is printed with all the characters in upper case.  The sample in the ppt file is the exception.

Slides 28-30 on Type Size Requirements -- no surprise here that these are mandated.

 

Yes, DM, this went way past the OP's original question, but he received his answer, and, since then I have learned a lot.

 

DV, I would like to have your kind of wine gift giving friends.

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 28, 2014.

http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/11_79_2005

Pretty dry stuff, bein' all lawyerin' talk an' all.

Basically, to be VQA (Vintner's Quality Alliance), it has to meet these criteria.

Cellared in BC (or Canada) means it's got anything from ehtylene glycol to Aqua Velva in it.

EMark, those were my in-laws that were so kind.  Plenty of these will be here for when you're able to visit!

Greg, I'm all over the blog idea.  I'm SO excited!!!  :)

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Reply by EMark, Dec 29, 2014.

My in-laws are truly great people, but they do not have the same level of wine appreciation that yours have, Darren.  From my in-laws this year:

  • Monarch Glen 2013 California Merlot
  • Spencer Family Vineyards 2012 Cask One California Red Table Wine
  • Black Fox 2013 Black Fox California Cabernet Sauvignon

No worries about any of these being over-oaked.  Thanks to US labeling laws, though, I am confident that these were all made from grapes.

I'm pretty sure that my m-i-l orders these from some catalog.

I thanked them, profusely, for thinking of me.

Oh, and don't worry.  I won't be bringing these for any group tastings.

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 29, 2014.

EMark,

They don't really drink wine.  My mother-in-law does, but pretty awful stuff.  They know that they'd better spend some money on my gift because they can't fool me.  I'm really SO easy to buy for!

I usually perform service of some sort, so it more than pays them back. 

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 29, 2014.

Here's a couple of wines I drank while down in Seattle.  The Stonestreet 2004 cab was reduced (a single bottle hanging around in the cellar) and was awesome.  The Chandler Reach was a shot in the dark for me as I'd never heard of it.  It too was in the cellar room at the grocery store, in a dark, bottom shelf in the corner.  $23, (2005 Washington).  It was incredible.  It was called Monte Regalo (a blend).  I'd put it up there in the top ten of wines I'd drank this year (okay, fifteen for sure).  I told the guy at the store that it was THAT good.  I went back the day before I came back to Victoria (to get one to bring back) and low and behold, somebody scooped the remaining three bottles.  I'm going to start telling people that all the wine I drink is crappy!

 


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