Thursday, May 10, 2012

Winery or Bottling "Facility'?

This is a post for all of you who think of wine as a beverage that is likely produced at a winery in some bucolic country setting with rows of grapes and a winemaker watching over every barrel with care.

Not so fast...

According to Keith Wallace in his article on The Daily Beast, most American wine is nothing more than bulk wine repackaged with snazzy labels and cute animals in tow. This is especially true of the top 30 selling brand. You know which wines I am talking about. He refers to these wines as "grape-based processed food products." This article is fascinating and sheds light on a practice that most of us may not think about when we pop by the local grocery and pick up that $8 bottle of juicy California Cabernet to enjoy with dinner.

I have known for years that these wines exist and certainly one cannot expect a brand like "Two Buck Chuck" to have acres of vines to tend and then land on the retail shelf for $2.99 per bottle. What amazed me however, was HOW MUCH of our everyday favorite American wine brands are produced in this manner.

I popped by a local grocery store this evening and scanned through the wine section just to gander at the offerings and the label art. I started picking up bottles with fun names like Cupcake and Flip Flop. What I noticed on the back label was the text "vinted and bottled". I noticed these words on almost every bottle of California wine I handled. Even Acacia Pinot Noir and Louis Martini Cabernet had these magic words on their back labels.

I started wondering... What does vinted and bottled mean? Or what about "cellared and bottled". I am more accustomed to the term "produced and bottled" on most of the wine labels that I purchase and consume. Could it be that vinted and cellared were terms used for wine that was not produced by said winery but rather bulk wine repackaged?

Yes! The terms vinted and cellared are used on American wine labels when the wine is not produced by the winery or brand that bottles it. That means they didn't grow or crush any grapes but rather a tanker of wine showed up and after some tweeking, the wine was bottled with a label slapped on and rushed off to the retail shelf.

Another curious thing I noticed on a few wines was the text "vinted and bottled" and the cities Ripon and Livermore, CA. All American wine labels must note the location of the winery where the wine is bottled. Why would two cities be listed on a back label? Not to mention two cities that are 40 miles apart? Upon further exploration, the particular company that bottles these wines has two different "plants" where bottling takes place. Basically, its a wine bottling factory that has two different locations. 

Read the above article from Keith Wallace in The Daily Beast and if it matters to you that the wine you purchase is produced by the winery whose labels adorn the bottle, simply look for the words "produced and bottled".


Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. I am from Australia, and did not know this kind of practise in the industry. Although, I did suspect something funny was happening on the very low end of the price spectrum.

Now, the wine you are showing the label. What strikes me is not the "cellared and bottled" term, but the fact the in the ingredients you find: "table wine, water, sugar, concentrated juice, ..."

I am amazed that they can still call that "wine".

Do you know, if this type of practise also happen on actual wines. Instead of wine-based drinks?

ChiefWino said...

Ah yes. That is an interesting wine I found in a drug store in New York City. Its very common to find wines that have added sugar or acid to adjust for flavor and body. The French do it all the time with regard to adding sugar...the practice is called Chapitalization and the sugar is added to increase alcohol during fermentation. I have a feeling that once a wine is finalized and then things are added it is no longer considered wine but a wine based beverage hence why this particular label has the "ingredients" listed. I do not know how common these things may be in Australia. The Australian Government might be more fussy when it comes to labeling and winemaking practices. But what I can tell you is that usually these types of correctives measures are taken on the low priced wines. If you normally drink wines that are prices $15+, they are probably not as manipulated.