What's In the Bottle of Wine - United States
The United States is one of the easier wine growing countries when it comes to understanding what is in a bottle of wine. That is because the vast majority of wineries in the United States label by wine variety. Therefore, a wine that says Chardonnay on it contains wine made from the Chardonnay grape.
While that is pretty simple and straight forward, there are a few nuances that are worth noting.
- To be varietally labeled, a wine must include at least 75% juice from that grape variety. That means that a wine that is labeled Cabernet Sauvignon can contain up to 25% of other grape varieties. Many wineries use this to blend in other grapes to add character.
- To be vintage labeled, a wine must include at least 95% of wine produced in that vintage year. The exception to this rule is for county or state designated appellations where the requirement is for 85% of the wine coming from the vintage year.
- Wines indicating a county or state appellation on the label must contain at least 75% of grapes grown in the designated region.
- Wines indicating an American viticultural area (AVA) on the label must contain at least 85% of grapes grown in the designated region.
What About Meritage or Proprietary Labeled Wines
A proprietary labeled wine is one that simply contains a brand name. Opus One would be an example of a proprietary labeled wine. It is a blend of red wine grapes. A white wine example would be Conundrum. The good news is that many of these wines will give the grape content on the back label.
Meritage wines, wines that have Meritage on the label, are also wines that are made up of a blend of grapes. There are both red and white Meritage wines. Wineries labeling their wine Meritage must agree to the Meritage Association's licensing agreement.
- Red Meritage must be made principally from the following grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, St. Macaire, Gros Verdot, Carmenere. No single varietal may comprise more than 90% of the blend.
- White Meritage must be made Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Sauvignon Vert. It must be a blend of at least 2 of these grapes. No single variety may make up more than 90 percent of the blend.