Do terms like old vines, Reserve, Riserva, Gran Reserva mean anything?


These days many wineries seem to be producing more reserve wine than ever before, and it looks as if terms like old vines, reserve etc capture the imagination of consumers, and enrich the coffers of wineries without justification.

Old vines produce less fruit but of better quality.

Now a lot of wineries label their wines as old vines. There is no law in any country except for France where old vines must be older than 25 years. Elsewhere anyone can label any wine as such. Honourable wineries never do such things.

These days the term reserve on the label means nothing except for Italian, and Spanish wines. There is no law that stipulated condition for such a claim. Originally, reserve meant that the wine was deemed to be better than the regular vintage and therefore reserved for further ageing, and eventually sold for a higher price.

According to an agent the term reserve on a wine label is most abused attribute.

The same applies to terms such as proprietor’s reserve, reserve of the family, vintner’s reserve, winemaker’s selection, or block with a number attached meaning that the wine is made from grapes harvested from a particular block of the whole vineyard and therefore to be superior in quality.

In Italy a wine labelled as riserva must be aged one year longer than the regular wine of that vintage.

In Spain the term crianza means one year of barrel aging plus an appropriate time of bottle ageing, reserva means one year of barrel aging, plus two years of bottle ageing, and gran reserva five years of barrel aging plus two in bottle.

A few California and Australian wineries indicate on some of their wine labels “unfiltered” suggesting that the wine tastes better or it may contain some particles.

While some winemakers I consulted claim filtering robs the wine of some flavour others maintained that the wine regains its old flavour. As for my taste the unfiltered wine tastes better.

If the country of origin of a wine lacks legislation regarding above terms you should know that you rely on the word of the winery, and some are more reliable than others.

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