Unregulated wine terms

Last week, regulated wine label terms. This week, other terms on labels that mean whatever winery wants them to mean.

In many countries, “reserve” indicates wines a winery spends more time with the wine—in the making, especially aging in barrel and bottle—before releasing for sale.

In the U.S., you find additional adjectives piled on: special reserve, vintner’s reserve, barrel reserve, show reserve, wine maker’s reserve, and more. That’s because terms have no legal meaning in United States (or, surprisingly, in France).

Generally, a winery produces its lower-priced wine, then increases price when it puts “reserve” on label, increases price even more when it adds adjectives to modify “reserve” noun.

It is a sore enough subject that some countries prohibit importation of U.S. wines labeled “reserve.”

Other familiar label lingo that has no legal meaning, at least not yet: select harvest, proprietors blend, proprietor grown, barrel select, barrel fermented, bottle aged, single vineyard, old vine, ancient vine, and old clone are some of the concoctions.

Jargon springs from machinations of marketing moguls, not wine regulations. They have no legal definitions.

This may change. Currently, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau—government arm regulating wine labels—is considering ways to give real meaning to loose label lingo.

You can participate to determine which, if any, wine words should be legally defined. Visit www.ttb.gov/wine/wine-rulemaking.shtml to be part of process.

Go ahead. Barrel ahead and selectively lose your reserve.

Recommended (all names hyped):

• Messina Hof Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve. Full-bodied red; oak and berries. $10

• Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay. Limes, grapefruit; creamy, oaky Chard from wine factory. $14

• Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel. Dark fruit, coffee, chocolate; plenty of oak and vanilla; 35% from 100-year-old vines. $16

• Pascual Toso Reserve Malbec. Blue and black berries; inky color. Argentina: Malbec’s promised land. $20