The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2014

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Page 11 of 134

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR The government is very strict about what vintners can say on their labels—and what they can't. The use of appellations (or AVAs) is carefully monitored. Naked women and health claims are verboten. Every label, before it can be pasted on a bottle, must be vetted by the proper authorities. Certain terms such as "Estate Bottled" or "Unfiltered" or "Barrel Fermented" can be used, but they must be accurate and truth- ful. While the American regulations are nowhere near as stringent as the French A.O.P. or the Italian D.O.P., or the impenetrable German nomenclature, they can be tough—and adherence to them is mandatory. But here in the U.S. one term that seems to have slipped through the cracks without a dent or a bruise. It is a word that appears on thousands of wine bottles and, as far as I can tell, it has absolutely no meaning whatsoever. The word is "Reserve." Back in the dark ages, the word "Reserve" was used to indicate special lots of wine that were reserved for the proprietor and his family. These reserved bottlings never really saw the light of the marketplace. They were carefully stashed in some dark depth of the cellar, only to be brought out for occasions such as wed- dings, birthdays and anniversaries. Wines so employed were locked away and never offered to anyone who wasn't a blood relative or a very close friend. Well, times have changed. The term "Reserve" has been used so frequently on so many undistinguished bottles, that it has com- pletely lost its meaning. Every $5 Petite Sirah has the word plastered across its label. What does "Vintner's Reserve" signify if it is printed on every one of over 20 million bottles? Does the vintner have that many friends and family? It used to be that if there was a "Reserve" bottle, then there was also a non-reserve bottling that was slightly less good and slightly less expensive. Now, even that convention has fallen by the wayside. Wineries skip the decent but unremarkable stepsister and jump right to the "Reserve." Even if its $9.99. In at least one case, the word "Reserve" has even become part of a mass-market wine brand name. Some wineries do play by whatever rules there are and make a rare and superior "Reserve" wine. Mondavi has done it for years. But the vast majority of vintners who use the term have bastardized it and relegated it to the realm of meaningless hyperbole. I never thought I would ever suggest government oversight for anything, but maybe that time has come for "Reserve." CONTRIBUTORS Grace Stufkosky is a commercial and editorial photogra- pher based out of Phoenix by way of Southern California. Although her work covers a variety of subjects and can be seen nationally in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, her passion lies in food, restaurant and cocktail photography. When she's not busy behind the camera, she can be found chasing a small flock of backyard chickens and playing with her two little guys. Timothy Murray is a commercial and editorial photographer based out of his studio in Brooklyn, NY. He recently published a book of his nightlife photography called The Color of Night. Megan Ellis Dzielak is an international destination wedding photographer based out of the beautiful Florida Keys, who is passionate about traveling and experiencing different cultures. When not traveling—or planning her next trip—,Megan can usually be found reading, relaxing on the tropical sandbars near her house, or spearfishing with her husband. Richard Carleton Hacker is an internationally recognized authority on wines, spirits, cigars and related luxury lifestyles, and is a contributing writer for magazines that include Robb Report, Playboy, Smoke and The Quarterly Review of Wines. He has authored eleven books in the U.S., Great Britain and Germany, is a lifetime member of the Keeper of the Quaich and the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne and was knighted in Germany. Wine with Reservations 10  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2014

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