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Another View of “Estate Bottled”

By Charles Olken

The term, Estate Bottled, while purporting to describe only, and somewhat loosely, the process under which certain wines are grown and vinified, has always been intended, when shown on the label of said wines, to connote quality. In that sense, it is like other marketing terms that appear and have loose or no definition of consequence, i. e., Private Reserve, Organically Grown, Winemaker’s Selection.

And while it is true that Estate Bottled does have a certain legal standing and can, but not necessarily does, indicate a closer relationship with the grapes than in wines that are not labeled as estate bottled, the looseness of the definition is such that it can mean anything from the grapes were the winery’s most carefully tended, closely guarded, lovingly raised, best clothed, manicured, etc., to the winery had a contract with the grower that spoke to crop levels and picking decisions but not much else.

Two recent blog entries go much further in discussing this term, and both are recommended.

The first appears in excellent blog written by Jeff Miller under the rubric, Artisan Family Wines/blog1. In it, Mr. Miller discusses the issues involved, and while he (remember that he is a winemaker first) does willingly ascribe the likelihood of goodness to estate bottled wines, he does not endorse them across the board. For the most part, his is a dispassionate discussion of the question.

The second appears in one of my daily “must reads”, the blog written by and eponymously named “Steve Heimoff”. You can go directly to this discussion through the link below2. I am less enamored of Mr. Heimoff’s overall position because it sides with his employer (Kendall-Jackson) overly much even though it does attempt, as he will do, to try to walk a less than sanctimonious path when discussing the source of his livelihood. But, here it is not what Mr. Heimoff has to say but what the many comments about the practice of using the term on a label have to say. Because they are all “correct” and contradictory, and some of them get a bit heated in the bargain, they illustrate far better collectively why “Estate Bottled” can possibly be a helpful term at times, but also why it is almost meaningless at others.

And because we as consumers have no way of knowing which it is, we are left with the only good advice I can offer on the subject.

The quality, and qualities, of an individual wine are not determined by what is on the label but by what is in the glass. And any attempt to suggest otherwise is nothing more than a marketing ploy that may or may not have any more meaning than any other marketing ploy.




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