Reading the label is important for understanding the exact ingredients and methods used to produce specific bottles of wine that might come up in wine clubs. However, connoisseurs must learn to sort through marketing language to find the phrases containing actual information of use for their purposes. Not all language on labels is regulated, meaning that some phrases provide concrete details about the bottle’s contents, while others can be outright misleading. Connoisseurs can rest assured that “estate-produced” and similar terms are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the United States. This means that their inclusion on the bottle tends to be illuminating about its contents.
Requirements for wines (and wine clubs)
For manufacturers to be able to label their wines “estate-produced,” three standards must be met. Bear in mind that even though these standards are stringent, being able to meet them is not a guarantor of the bottle’s excellence.
First, connoisseurs might have noticed the region listed right beneath the “estate-produced” on the label. Said region is an American Viticultural Area, referring to a specific wine-making region in the United States possessing unique geographic characteristics that serve to distinguish it from other regions. Estate-produced wines must be produced in the same American Viticultural Area as the source of their grapes.
Second, estate-produced wines must be produced using grapes harvested from the vineyards under their manufacturers’ control. Bear in mind that control is not the same as ownership. Manufacturers are considered to control vineyards so long as they possess ultimate control over the grapes grown at the sites in question. In short, estate-produced wines can be made using grapes from either purchased or leased vineyards.
Third, estate-produced wines must never leave the wineries of their manufacture, but instead undergo a continuous production process. For example, manufacturers cannot crush the grapes one site, and then ship out the must for fermenting elsewhere.
Meeting these standards means that there are some shared commonalities between estate-produced wines. First, since estate-produced wines are harder to produce, the price per bottle is higher. Second, the extra care and attention mean that estate-produced wines tend to be better than their counterparts, though this is not guaranteed. In the end, connoisseurs must depend on experience to judge their merit, perhaps through enrollment in a wine of the month club.