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Talley Vineyards

Chuck Sloan, Tasting Room Attendant
April 23, 2019 | Chuck Sloan, Tasting Room Attendant

It's a Percentage Game!

Congratulations, you just purchased a nice $85 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and you are looking forward to drinking that 100% Cabernet wine.  Well, actually, that might not be the case.

According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) only 75% of a varietal indicated on the label has to be in the bottle.  The other 25% may be most any wine that the winemaker chooses to add to the main varietal.  (Vintners might blend other wines to modify the flavor due to the growing conditions that year, to add structure or tannin to the wine, or to adjust the balance.)

The label on the bottle might also indicate that the wine is from the Arroyo Grande Valley (or any other) Viticulture Area. 
That means all of the grapes, right?  Again, not actually.  If the Viticulture Area is specified, at least 85% of those grapes must have been grown there.

A particular vintage (for example 2016) on the bottle indicates that at least 85% of those grapes were harvested in that year.  Now, if the appellation and a vintage year are specified, 95% of those grapes must have been harvested in the year indicated.

How about trying one more – the “single vineyard” designation.  100%?  No.  However, a minimum of 95% of the grapes must be from that vineyard.

So, what other descriptions and percentages should you be aware of?  Here is a very “short list”:

  •  “Produced and bottled by” – bottler must have fermented and finished at least 75% of the wine
  •  “Made and bottled by” – bottler must have fermented and finished at least 10% of the wine
  •  Alcohol percentage – California law allows up to 1.5% variance under 14%, and a 1% variance over 14%

OK, is ANYTHING really 100% of what is indicated?  The answer is definitely YES, there are some!

  • “Estate” designated wines are 100% made from grapes grown and processed with a Viticulture Area
  • “California” designated wines are made from grapes 100% grown within the state

Perhaps this is a bit confusing, but none of this really detracts from the quality of the wine.  Enjoy what you are drinking, regardless of the “percentages” you encounter!

(Disclaimer – The above percentages apply to the U.S. and California requirements.   Foreign wines, and wines from other states, may have different guidelines.)


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