Wine Word of the Week: Reserve

By Kori ~ December 19th, 2009.

Wine Word of the WeekThis week’s Wine Word of the Week is reserve.

Official definition from Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine:
Reserve is a term liberally used by wine producers for various bottlings. It should be quite literally reserved itself, for superior wines, but, unlike Reserva and Riserva, the English term Reserve has few controls on its use.

Layman’s terms from Kori:
The word “reserve” on a bottle of wine doesn’t always mean that it is better than any other bottle from that winery. In some cases it does, but in many cases it does not.

In 1999, Washington became the first state (and still one of the only) to define standards for “reserve” wines. According to a measure adopted by the Washington Wine Quality Alliance, the word “reserve” can be used for no more than 10% of a winery’s production or up to 3,000 cases and the wine must be of higher quality than most wines made by that winery. Thus, “reserve” wines in Washington (at least from wineries that adhere to the WWQA standards) truly are the best of the best. In other states and countries, the use of the word “reserve” is mostly a marketing gimmick.

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