Second labels

Let’s be realistic. Most of us will never enjoy even a tiny sip of the world’s most famous and expensive wines. But there is a work-around.

Celebrated wineries, and many other wineries, often produce “second labels.” The finest grapes and free-run juice go into the prestige bottling, but there is plenty of high quality stuff left over after that bottling quota is reached. Second labels may not be cheap, but they cost a lot less than their ostentatious siblings.

If you can’t plunk down $400-plus for a bottle of Opus One, for instance, you can get their second label, Overture, for $125.

If you are are not ready to put a $1,000-plus bottle of Château Latour on your credit card, consider their second label Le Pauillace de Latour for $80.

Want to drink Château Lafite Rothschild, but don’t want to spend well more than $1,000 to do so? Second label Carruades de Lafite can be had for around $300.

Have a thirst for the famed Super Tuscan Ornellaia, but not a hankering to spend $200 on the bottle? You can get the second label, Le Serre Nuove, for around $50, or the third label, Le Volte, for $30.

Sassicaia may be the most sought-after Super Tuscan in the U.S. market, which is why it retails well past $200 a bottle. You can get their second label, Guidalberto, for $40.

These are all the same wineries, winemakers, and vineyards, and those who have been privileged to taste both report only the most sophisticated can tell the difference, if there is one. The second-label phenomena applies to many wineries, including those where us average Joes can afford the first label.

In most cases you are not paying for the wine in the first label bottle, you are paying for the bragging rights to say you own the first label bottle. Your call.

Tasting notes:

• Mionetto Organic Prosecco DOC: Flaunts glera’s apple-flavor side; upholds Mionetto’s reputation for quality and value. $13-16 Link to my tasting notes

• Charles Smith Wines Boom Boom! Syrah, Washington State 2015: Simple, straightforward, fruity, mellow, smooth, easy drinker. $15 Link to my tasting notes

• Ornellaia Le Volte dell’Ornellaia Toscana 2015: Very easy drinking effort that people put off by big boy reds will enjoy. Third label of Ornellaia. $28-32 Link to my tasting notes

Last round: I met my wife at a wine singles bar. It was a surprise. I thought she was home taking care of our kids.

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