Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Use of Various Winemaking Terms on Labels

Last week, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published a solicitation for public comments on proposed rule changes in the Federal Register. The majority of the rule changes focus on the use of the term "Estate" on labels and in advertisements. Currently, only the term "Estate Bottled" is defined. Right now, "Estate Bottled" may be used by a winery only if the wine is labeled with an AVA and the bottling winery is located in the labeled AVA, grew all of the grapes used to make the wine on land owned or controlled by the winery within the boundaries of the labeled AVA and crushed the grapes, fermented the resulting must, and finished, aged, and bottled the wine in a continuous process. Any other use of the word "Estate" on wine labels is not regulated. Wineries with the word "Estate" in their name, or that use it in any other way may be affected by any subsequent rules changes.

Other terms that the TTB requested comment on include: "Vintner Grown," "Proprietor Grown," "Vineyard," "Orchard," "Ranch," "Proprietors Blend," "Old Vine," "Barrel Fermented," "Old Clone," "Reserve," "Select Harvest," "Bottle Aged," and "Barrel Select." Perhaps the most used of these terms is "Reserve." This term is meant to indicate a wine that is special but it has no universally-accepted definition. The state of Washington is the only U.S. wine region to define "Reserve." In 1999, Washington defined "Reserve" wines as being no more than 10% (up to 3000 cases) of a winery's production and indicating that the winemaker believes this wine has a higher quality than most wines from the winery. "Reserve" has been defined in Spanish, Italian and other European wine regions.

While no changes are currently proposed, the idea is certainly out there and should create quite a wave in the wine industry. Wineries that use the terms listed above could have a lot at stake if the TTB decides that further regulation is necessary. How should "Reserve" be defined? What other terms do you think need to be defined and regulated?

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