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What Word Means Great Wine, Part Deux?


Well, after last week we now know that "Old Vine" is pretty meaningless, but certainly "reserve" must mean something. After all, it sounds so important and special. Unfortunately, there is once again no clear cut answers. So buckle your seat belts and get ready for a crazy ride.


The simple answer for "reserve" in California is no, it doesn't have any legal meaning. If you make a wine that you feel is very special, for any reason, you have every right to call it reserve. You can call it Winemakers Reserve, Special Reserve, even Scrumdillyishous Reserve should the mood strike you. It could still be made from rotting grapes and smell of an unwashed armpit, which you may or may not like. (Me personally, not so much).


If you are a fan of domestic wines from a little further north, such as Washington, the story changes a little. In 1999, the Washington Wine Quality Alliance was formed by a diverse committee of wine industry members to spearhead development of industry standards in winemaking and labeling. Under the WWQA umbrella, the nation's first definition of the term "reserve" was defined. In Washington this will translate to no more than 3000 cases or 10% of a wineries' production as a reserve wine and indicates the winemaker's designation of this wine as higher quality than most wines from the winery.


In Europe the term has meaning in many countries, unfortunately it isn't the same within each country, let alone across them all. For example, for the Italian wine, Brunello di Montalcino, "riserva" means a minimum of 6 months of bottle aging and a release date a year after its non-riserva bretheren. In Chianti, just slightly further North, this term means not only additional aging, but also an additional half a degree of alcohol which would lead to slightly more body.


If we hop over to Rioja, Spain, "riserva" requires a minimum of 3 years of aging, 12 months of which must be in a barrel. In a white Rioja this term means the wine has seen 2 years of aging with at least 6 months in a cask. in neither Spain nor Italy do they just willy nilly decide which wines are being aged longer to call them "riserva" and charge more. In most cases these wines are chosen for their quality and ability to withstand the elongated aging process. This can usually mean a higher quality wine.


So, what we have learned is that in California this is again, just another marketing term. This isn’t true throughout the rest of the world so be sure and check out these special wines where “riserva” means something.


ArticleBanfi, Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, Celebrating the best Tuscan tradition Banfi offers a family of Chianti wines varied and complementary, unique in its style. Chianti Riserva is produced from selected grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti between Siena and Firenze. It is elegant, well-balanced, full-bodied with a very long aging potential. Sale 14.99!!!






WineCiconia Reserva 2008, The wine posses a complexity of aromas that suggested berries, with some toasted notes as a result of a short period in oak, that in combination with good structure of bark allows it the presentation of a very rounded and balanced wine in the mouth. Only 13.99!!!




WineMarques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2005, 90pts Robert Parker, Bright ruby-red. Complex, aromatic bouquet of red berries, dried cherry, sassafras, tobacco and cedary oak. On the palate, dark fruits are joined by mounting vanilla and oak spice character. Packs a solid punch and finishes with very good spicy persistence. Only 21.99!!!






Sale prices good through 2/29/21.

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