April 19, 2011

Reserve *
    An unregulated New World term that suggests a higher quality wine that has been “reserved” from the rest of that year’s harvest, but can just as easily be meaningless.

Not much in the way of Q words to choose from, so let’s move right to the R's. The notion of a ‘reserve’ wine is that it has been set aside as being the best of that year’s batch. Occasionally the reserve wine is created by design, with the winemaker taking extra care every step of the way on that wine, whereas the remainder of the lot is handled in a more everyday fashion.

After the wine has aged in barrels for the allotted time, it will all be blended together in one large vat to create the cuvée. While in the course of sampling the barrels, the winemaker will also be looking for exceptional barrels. These would then be set aside to go into the reserve wine. In Old World wine regions, the practice is common-place, and the terms Reserve, Reserva, and Riserva are all regulated. You cannot use these terms on the labels if your wines don’t make the grade. Nor can you call ALL your wine reserve. It must have been reserved from something.

Not so in the New World. Most of these wine regions have yet to put in place any kind of appellation systems, let alone quality tiers. With little in the way of labelling regulations, anyone can put practically anything on a wine bottle. It’s not unusual to see bottles labelled “barrel reserve” or “cellar reserve” that have seen neither a barrel nor an actual cellar. There are even wineries that label all of their wines as reserve. Makes you wonder what the non-reserve stuff must have been like.

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