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About Wine Labels

Much of the information found on wine labels is required by law in California. Other information (i.e. "Old Vines") is provided by the producer to further describe the wine. Information found on most labels includes:

Brand (Producer)

The brand name is used by the bottler to identify the product. The brand name is of utmost importance since many wines are purchased based solely on the producer's reputation. Any brand name is acceptable so long that it does not mislead the consumer.

Vintage Date

A vintage date on the label indicates that 95% or more of the wine is produced from grapes grown in that year. If no date is present then the wine is most likely a blend from grapes grown in different years.

Varietal Designations

The names of the dominant grapes used in the wine. A varietal designation on the label means that at least 75% of that grape variety is used in the wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are examples of grape varieties.

Wines that do not have the 75% of a single grape variety often have proprietary names or may be designated such as "Red Table Wine."

Appellation of Origin

The place in which the dominant grapes used in the wine are grown. A country, state, county, region, appellation or vineyard on the label means that at least 75% of the wine is produced from grapes grown in the place named. Examples include California, North Coast, Sonoma County and Santa Maria Valley.

American Viticultural Area (AVA)

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is an officially recognized well-defined grape-growing region with soil, climate, and geographic features which set it apart from the surrounding areas. An AVA designation on the label indicates that 85% or more of the wine is produced from grapes grown in the particular AVA. Carneros, North Coast, Stag's Leap District and Dry Creek Valley are examples.

Estate Bottled

"Estate Bottled" means that 100% of the wine came from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by the winery, located in the viticultural area. The winery then crushes and ferments the grapes, finishes, ages, processes and bottles the wine in one continuous operation. This is sometimes indicated as "grown, produced and bottled by."

In the case where the winery and the winery's own vineyards are not in the same viticultural area, the winery may designate that the wine has been "Proprietor Grown."

Produced and Bottled by

This indicates that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled a minimum of 75% of the wine in this bottle. It does not mean that the winery grew the grapes used in the wine.

Made and Bottled by

This indicates that a minimum of 10% of the wine was fermented at the winery. In general, this may infer a lesser quality wine than "estate bottled" or "produced and bottled by" designations.

Vinted and Bottled by

Usually the same as "made and bottled by."

Alcohol Content

This is the percentage of alcohol by volume of the wine. By U.S. law, wines may have a minimum of 7 percent to a maximum of 14 percent alcohol and must be within 1.5 percent of the actual alcohol content (but within the stated limits). Ports have a legal range of 18 to 20 percent and Sherries have a 17 to 20 percent range.


The common practice of filtering or fining wines to remove sediment can sometimes remove some of the wine's flavor or body. A winemaker that chooses to bottle a wine without filtering or fining will usually label it as such. It is not uncommon to find a small amount of harmless sediment in these bottles.


Since the term "reserve" has no legal meaning in the U.S., wineries may use this term to designate a special bottling (i.e. "Show Reserve") or limited production. In some cases a winery will use the term as a marketing tool and has no other meaning.

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