Tag Archives: quality

Reserve Means Nothing


Wine Wednesday

Don’t be fooled. When it comes to American wines, the term “reserve” has no legal definition. Any winery can put that on any label for any reason. 

The term is not regulated.

However, that’s not to say that it doesn’t have meaning elsewhere. For example, wines from the Rioja region of Spain are can only be labeled Reserva if the wine is aged for three years, with at least one of those years in oak. A Rioja Gran Reservamust age at least 2 years in oak and 3 years in the bottle.

That’s some serious business.

This is not to say that American winemakers who label their wines “reserve” are trying to fool you. The term may not have a legal definition, but it does typically mean something to the winemaker or winery themselves.

Generally, winemakers will “reserve” that term for some of their better or best wines. Sometimes they use grapes that are more carefully picked. Sometimes they age it in better oak or for a longer period of time. In any case, it is meant to imply that this wine is even better than the others they carry. They may even be only available in limited quantities. Due to the extra labor, care and love put into the wine, it is often more expensive than the others they produce. {Even if that means a $9 vs. a $12 bottle!}

These wines are not in current Traveling Vineyard Tasting Sets for in-home tasting events, but I’ve ordered them anyway, because I want to give them a try!

The elaborate tasting notes indicate a lot of care was put into the creation of these wines! They both sound, smooth, velvety and inviting. I’ll give you a full report after we’ve sipped. 😉 If you are interested in ordering these wines to taste for yourself, click here.

So the tips to take away here?

  • If you try a wine that is just “okay”, spend the extra few dollars for their reserve wine, if one is offered. That might suit you better.
  • If you find a wine you love, chances are that you’ll love the reserve wine even more.
  • When you are tasting at a winery, ask the wine rep serving you what reserve refers to in their wines. I love this kind of info!

Understanding the label is important because not all terms are regulated. When I asked what was the difference between two wines labeled slightly differently on a menu at one of our wineries in Temecula, we were told that it was purely for marketing purposes. I appreciated his honesty. However, when we tasted at South Coast, we learned that the Wild Horse Peak wine collection is not a marketing scheme. They are actually wines produced from grapes grown in the Wild Horse Peak plot of vineyards. This is a smaller, more concentrated area from where the grapes are from – not just California or Temecula. This usually indicates better quality!

But then again, how do we define quality?

Do you ever buy reserve wines?

If so, what is your favorite?