When it comes to wine, ALL of the important information on a label is achieved. Whether it’s using organic methods, only using grapes from a specific area or limiting yields, a producer must follow rules and guidelines while jumping through hoops in order for a wine to be designated as anything important.
After writing my piece on understanding wine labels the other week, I thought no harm in highlighting some of the phrases used by winemakers that are purely marketing and have no relevance to what’s in the bottle.
I thought we should start with those two little words that are put on certain French wines to make them look more expensive: “Vielles Vignes” (Old Vines).
There are two tricks to this kind of mislabelling. Firstly, there’s no definition of what constitutes old vines, so it’s never clear what they’re referring to is it 5 years? 10? Maybe 30? It can be all or even less! There’s no independent body to verify or set the standard so “Vielles Vignes” can nearly always be disregarded.
Next up is that one simple word that grinds my gears the most because I see it all the time on cheap bottles of wine in supermarkets: HAUT.
There are two situations where the word haut has meaning in on a label. First, if a wine is labelled “Haut-Medoc” it refers to a smaller area of land within the Medoc on the left bank in Bordeaux. In order for a producer to have it on the label 100% of the harvest must be from there. The second is the great Grand Cru Classé wine “Chateau Haut-Brionn”.
If it’s not one of the two above its simply marketing intended to be just familiar enough to the average person to convince them to pick up that bottle.
“Limited edition”: This is an old favourite of marketing departments the world over, in my experience 95% of the limited edition wines are only as limited as the next delivery due in!
“Reserva” refers to the minimum length of time the wine has been aged in Spain and “Riserva” in areas of Italy such as Chianti. However, when used on New world labels, the term has little meaning and is likely just a selling tactic designed to make the consumer think they’re purchasing a premium product.
Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on the marketing teams of producers to help sell wines. When we started our wine subscription our goal was to give the best possible wines we can to the people we think will like them. To hell with what’s written on the front!
Kind regards and drink up,