• Yeah I know.. It’s my longest title to date, but I don’t know any shorter way to put it. I’ve spoken many times about different practices in wine making that different states or countries observe. Knowing these laws and restrictions placed on wine makers by their governing body helps one identify what’s behind the label.

    The United States has one of the most relaxed set of laws for what a wine label needs to say versus what is actually in the bottle.

    A wine must contain 75 % of grapes from the appellation of origin.
    25% can be from elsewhere
    25% can be a different vintage year
    25% can be a different grape

    AVA (American Viticultural Areas) are our answer to France’s AOC. They denote a territory that is intended to have a certain type of soil and climate.

    AVA’s can be several states or in the instance of Anderson Valley it’s 600 acres. One of the smallest AVA’s, Cole Ranch is only 60 acres.
    If an AVA is listed on the label it must be 85% of that AVA.
    If there is a vineyard designate on the label then it by law has to 95%
    If it says Estate then 100% has to be of that grape.

    Now Estate bottlings have the strictest rules. Both the vineyard and the winery have to be located on the estate. The winery must own or control the entire vineyard and the wine must be produced from crush to bottle in a continuous process without leaving the premises. So if you get a wine that says estate then you know without a doubt that it is the grape varietal in its entirety and of the year listed. Its so much more reassuring then the wine maybe being 25% anything else and it not being listed.

    The wine laws are lax to enable a wine maker to use their artistry in making the wine, to enable an easier drinking wine if the one grape wasn’t as good in any particular year, and to allow for easier appeal to the general public.

    I for one wish that any time a wine maker chooses to stray from a 100% that they should be required to show on the label exactly what was done to the wine. Be it blend of varietals or years or location. It helps give a place an identity if the wines are consistent from any given AVA. This in turn helps promote a style that is recognized as much as say Burgundy for example.

    In Burgundy if the wine is red, then its Pinot Noir and that Pinot is going to have bright acidity, dust or earth in the nose and palate, be of light body and often a bit of sour cherry. This is a generalization, but it holds true to form more often then not.

    I like that.

    I don’t like trying a Sauvignon Blanc and having it smell like orange blossoms or honeysuckle because it contained Orange Muscat.

    I’m a bit of a purist, but I do enjoy what a wine maker can do to make their wine unique.