What qualifications must a bottle of wine have in order to be labeled “reserve?”

What qualifications must a bottle of wine have in order to be labeled “reserve?”

As you’re scouring the racks of wine at the store and trying to decide on the perfect bottle of red for date night, you may notice that several of the more expensive wines are labeled as “reserve” wines. Clearly this affects the price, but what exactly does it mean?

When we think of the word “reserve,” we think of something that is set aside or kept separate for future use. This applies as well to the idea of reserve wine. Reserve wines are typically those that are made with the best quality grapes. These may be set aside and used to make a more higher-quality wine. Reserve may also be used in reference to a wine that is expected to garner more attention, such as a wine that was aged longer before selling or one that used grapes hand-picked by the vineyard owner to ensure the best flavors, aromas, and overall quality. Reserves may also be aged in oak which can benefit the quality of the wine as well.

In just a few countries, the use of the word “reserve” on the label is regulated. However, in the United States, this is not the case. There are no specific requirements needed in order for a bottle of wine to be marked as a reserve. Therefore, in some cases, it is used as a marketing ploy to get uneducated wine drinkers to shell out more for a bottle of wine that may not be any different than its less expensive counterparts. Companies such as Kendall-Jackson use “Vintner’s Reserve” on the wine label for all of their Chardonnay. However, they have true “reserve” wines, but these are marked “Grand Reserve.” This can be very confusing for the common wine drinker who may be wondering how this mark warrants another $10 per bottle at the store.

When it comes down to it, many every day wine consumers will not be affected by the tagline of “reserve.” True reserves, that are made to be of better quality, will often posses more flavors and layers that can actually be less desirable to those just wanting to enjoy a nice, predictable glass of Chardonnay. For those with more defined tastes and the ability to distinguish the distinct flavors, they may enjoy the more complex reserves, but only if they are truly created as such.

In comparison, many will find that a “non-reserve” bottle of wine can be just as refreshing and enjoyable as a reserve, and will find that paying the extra may not be in the best benefit for the every day wine enthusiast. The term is often used for marketability and not necessarily as a way to distinguish the true quality of a wine. However, if you are looking to celebrate a special event or step outside of your comfort zone and purchase a more costly bottle of wine marked as a reserve, go to town! To find out if you are getting a true reserve, do a little research first to ensure that your extra $10 or so is truly investing in an improved, higher quality of wine.

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