Did the Winery Actually Make the Wine?

Question from Scott: I just read your post on $5 vs. $50 wine. I’m appalled that a winery can buy someone else’s wine and put their label on it. Does the label tell me if the winery made its own wine or not?

Reply: One question leads to another! Thanks for writing! There are some key phrases to look for in the “fine print”.

Words that indicate authenticity:

  • Estate Bottled: The Estate Bottles designation requires that the winery crushed, fermented, finished and aged 100% of the wine on winery premises. Contrary to popular perception, it doesn’t require that the winery use only its own grapes. It’s rather vague in saying the vineyard must be controlled” by the winery, which can simpley mean the winery hasa 3-year contract with a grower and some input on the farming.
  • Produced or Made By: The winery fermented at least 75% of the wine on winery premises, but they may have finished, aged and bottled it off-site. In fairness, lots of wineries have separate aging and bottling facilities so that the land around the winery is put to its optimal use: grape growing. It matters a great deal where the grapes grow, but it doesn’t matter where the warehouse is. These designations don’t tell you anything about the grape source.

Words that make my antenna go up:

  • Cellared and Bottled By: The winery has given the wine some sort of cellar treatment, like aging or blending but didn’t necessarily ferment the wine. I picture the winemaker buying the wine, doing a little dance around it and slapping his label on the bottle 😉 Actually, both high and low quality wines are bought and sold on the bulk market. I guess what rubs, a bit, is a lack of authenticity.
  • Bottled By, Selected By or my personal favorite, Perfected By: This tells you that the winery bottled the wine, but everything else may have been done by someone else. It could be perfectly delicious wine, but you don’t know much about it.  

So, if you care about provenance or authenticity, you’ll avoid :Cellared and Bottled” and “Bottled By”. If you only care about how it tastes, don’t worry about it! There are other terms that can help decode the wine label for you, so please let me know if you’d like more! Cheers!

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