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If cruising down the wine aisle at your local shop or retailer, have you ever noticed all the different labels Of course you have. Probably a stupid question. (Sorry.) But have you ever really looked at the different labels. Betcha didn’t know that a governing body (the TTB) makes us have certain things on there. So how do you decipher what means what on that label Bust out your Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pin, because we’re gonna break it down for you.

The first thing is the brand name. (Obviously.) We know that with all good things comes a good brand name. When you’re looking for something specific, this is how you make it clear to a retailer what it is you wanna find. “Sir/Ma’am, I’m looking for the Sutter Home wines…”

Tip from the Tour: the brand name may not be the same name as the producer. Lots of places make different brands but if you’re jonesin’ to know the producer, the name and city/state of bottling will be on the back. The government said so. Think of it as the place to find info on where to send the thank you notes.

Next on the list is the vintage, listed in year form. This year is the year in which the grapes were harvested. It doesn’t necessarily reflect how long the wine has been in that bottle. Different types of wine require different aging so don’t completely run and hide from a wine with an older vintage. And did we mention that the magic number for vintage is 85…as in percent A wine that has a county or state designation–or foreign equivalent– (i.e. California, Napa County) you know that at least 85% of the grapes for the wine were grown during that listed vintage year. If the label gets more specific and lists an AVA (American Viticultural Area), the percentage is upped to 95% coming from the listed vintage.

Volume is another thing that the government makes us (and every other wine producer) put on the label. But you know this. You may not even realize it, but you do. Does the metric measurement of 750mL ring any bells Maybe you prefer 1.5L We wouldn’t blame you… 🙂

What is ‘RESERVE’
As far as California wine laws go, the term ‘reserve’ on a wine label could mean the quality of the box used to stuff the bottles in. It isn’t governed by any guidelines and does not guarantee a certain quality regardless of what it implies.

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