This Matter of “Reserve” Wine

Imagine that you are a winemaker or that you own a winery, and you are tasting some of the wines that are maturing in the bar­rels. You are an experienced taster, and are able to read into wine. You can detect characteristics that tell you this wine will improve and be­come a superb wine. From among the various batches you taste, one or two barrels stand out as better than the others.

“Reserve those for me” would be my natural reaction. Wouldn’t you be inclined to do that, too? It’s along the lines of trying to deter­mine which wines you want to serve to which guests; or should you save the “good stuff” for when you’re alone?

This is how the “reserve” con­cept is said to have started.

The next step, since you can’t make any money keeping all the good stuff, had to be… selecting the better barrels or groups of barrels of wine from the same vinification, and offering them for sale as a better wine. You use the same label but print the words “Reserve”, “Private Re­serve”, “Chairman’s Reserve” or, “Special Selection”. Any designa­tion would work, as long as the delineation is made to the increased quality of these selections.

This is all well and good and interesting. Your reserve wines be­come very popular and you have created your own market niche.

Yet, it is possible you do not have “reserve” wines every year. You find that some years you

don’t have exceptional barrels. Now you have a problem; a market demand with no supply. So, you learn how to make better wine by improving your grapes and your methodologies. At this point you now have two lines; your regular and your “reserve”.

Next, you might find that hav­ing two lines is confusing to the public. One line is mistaken for the other…or more catastrophic, your winemaking ability is sometimes judged on you regular wines and not your “reserve” wines.

Now what do you do? Many have started another brand, a new name or label just for the “reserve” wines. Thus you have two dis­tinctly different brands that cannot be confused. One for your regular line of wines and one for your “re­serve” line of wines.

The original idea of “reserve” has gone through several transfor­mations. Each step of these trans­formations can be found in the wine industry today. You, the wine enthusiast, will find that you have to become familiar with the individual wineries to recognize which wines are part of which product line. As you taste more wines and become familiar with more wineries, you will find that the word “reserve” means different things to different makers and it is up to us to sort it out. Though the fact remains…there are still some wonderfully genuine “Reserve” wines in the market.

Good hunting!

P.K. Jr.

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