The word “Reserve” on a wine bottle has become one of the most obscure and vague terms since marketing came to wine making. The reason for this is the lack of regulation of the use of this term, with the exception of Italy and Spain. The meaning of “Reserve” varies depending on the region and manufacturer. In most cases, “Reserve” on a bottle of wine means what the seller wants it to mean.
The main problem with the use of the term, especially if for an ordinary inexperienced consumer, is that when we see this term on a wine label, we think that it means something important. Something that makes it special compared to the neighboring wine bottles on the shelf. And it is highly probable that this very word – “Reserve” – will turn out to be decisive when choosing a drink.
Often this marketing ploy is enough. Sellers and marketers are well aware of this mechanism. For this reason, they print it on the most prominent place on the label.
Is Reserve Wine better?
Does reserve really mean better? Not necessarily.
The word “Reserve” was not always an ordinary marketing ploy. It really mattered. The question is, how did it happen that the meaning became so blurred that it almost lost its true connotation?
If you look at the causes of the use of term “reserve”, you will find out that winemakers originally used it to designate wines that were especially good.
Wine producers in such cases created a stock of one crop or another, putting aside entire batches for storage, forming that “reserve”.
The reserve included not only drinks with a particularly balanced taste and aroma for this variety, but also those batches that, in the opinion of the winemaker, could improve their organoleptic properties with additional aging. For example, the wine could “ripen” and “open” during storage. It could acquire numerous additional facets of taste and aroma, turning into a richer composition than younger wines of the same variety and harvest.
In two countries: Spain and Italy, this mechanism is widespread and applied. And in both countries, the use of the term “Reserve”, “Riserva” or “Reserva” is clearly regulated by law. The government clearly spells out cases where any of the variations of these words can be put on a wine label.
In the province of Chianti, for example, the Chianti Classico Reserve cannot be put on sale before it reaches the age of three. While the younger Chianti Classico is aged no more than 7 months.
Therefore, holding an Italian or Spanish bottle with the words “Reserve”, “Riserva” or “Reserva” in your hands, you can be sure that it will really differ from its younger siblings.
An interesting fact: Rioja Gran Reserva’s Spanish wine is produced not every year, but only in those years when winemakers recognize the harvest as especially high-quality.
The rest of the world, especially the wine regions of the New World such as Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and the USA, that indicates this word on the label, does not regulate its use. In most cases, this is totally unrelated to the quality of the wine.
Of course, some manufacturers of the New World seek to comply with the regulations adopted by Spain and Italy, but, unfortunately, they are lost among those who use the term solely to increase sales, not paying attention to what it really means.
In 2010, the US government organization governing the wine industry, in response to public questions, reported that the term “reserve” was not intended to be regulated along with the terms “barrel fermented” , “old vine” and “proprietor’s blend”.
Therefore, do not spend extra money only for the letters on the labels, especially when the wine comes from outside Spain or Italy.