Here at Dragoon Mountain Vineyard, we use only free-range grapes. They are treated with tender loving care, the utmost respect and adoration. They are never abused, bruised, thrown about or yelled at. This does give rise to a little elitism on their part, so harvest isn’t as easy as you might think…
Do you ever wonder what really goes on at the winery?
“IT’S ALL IN THE LABEL”
By Marge Graziano
Easy to pick up most anything today at the store, especially if we are familiar with what we are buying. A bottle of wine is no different than a box of cereal. Corn Flakes are corn flakes, right? Do you even wonder where the corn was grown or how it got into the box on the shelf? The name of the grape, or the trade name, or familiar name of the wine is what we see right off. However, behind the name of the grape is only the “cover of the book” The wine label is the introduction to what is beneath the cork. That mysterious liquid, that unless it is Champagne, will not explode and throw liquid all over you, walls and the floor like soda pop will, if you turn the bottle over, shake it a little and even up-end it! Wine is patient and understanding and can hardly wait to flow with slippery legs to the bottom of your waiting glass. As you swirl the glass to aerate the wine, especially reds, do you ever wonder: “Just what the heck is in this stuff, anyhow?” Along the journey the grape has made over centuries, the juice has spent time in clay containers, wooden barrels, glass bottles, boda bags (I am sure somewhere along the way someone on a camel carried his juice in a leather bag), plastic, stainless steel, maybe canvas bags, and even in the individual grape on the wine, which containing natural wild yeast, will ferment itself. The Label on the bottle is the map to the liquid inside. I will briefly take you down the label road. If you like the road I have mapped for you, pick up “WINE FOR DUMMIES”, 2nd Edition by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan. So, rev your engines, here we go!
EVERY bottle of wine must have a label. The label tells us where we start and finish, the legal rules, mile markers, the pit stops, the terrain, road conditions, speed limits, rest areas, vegetation, and the good and bad stuff along the way, such as legalities we must be aware of, to name only a bit of the info we get. When we encounter detours, it all gets very complicated, so we need the map and a compass.
The BACK LABEL is the name of the wine and is meant to attract attention with color, drawings, photos, logos, fancy names, etc., kinda like a book cover. The FRONT LABEL is the meat of the book. The government has yet to define front label from back label. Certain stuff must appear on the front label, however, will the real front label please step forward. Truly, the front label is the info on the wine, legalities and all, but the back label, with all the pretties, is what we see facing us on the shelf. Confused? Remember, the front label, now facing backward, is where the ability to read comes in. Mandatory is the following: a brand name, indication of class or type, (is it table wine, dessert or sparkling), percentage of alcohol by volume, (Table Wine can be less than 14%), name and address of the bottler, net contents in milliliters, (standard is 750 ml,-=25.6 ounces), the phrase CONTAINS SULFITES, and of course the blessing of the government warning us of not drinking while pregnant, or some such notice, that most people ignore. If that bottle comes from outside the US and is sold in the US, it must have the phrase “imported by”. Wines made in Canada, Europe, and other wine producing areas all have their own sets of Government rulings regarding labels. The EU wines fall into a European category called QWPSE (Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region), known as an Appellation of Origin, (and that my wine loving friends is fodder for another article another time). Wording on Labels is, at times, meaningless, ambiguous and confusing. The year, with vintage or not), is optional. Reserve, a favorite meaningless word appearing on many American labels, is a shell game conveying prestige that the wine inside the bottle is special! (It may not be). In some countries it means extra aging. Estate Bottled is a sweetheart word that says the company that bottled also grew the grapes and made the wine. It does not mean that the wine is exceptional, good, bad or a bargain or over-priced. The Vineyard name can define the Terroir of that vineyard as unique. If labels interest you, start collecting them! Lots and lots of people buy the bottle not for the wine, but for the label. Most every wine we make has its own label, unique to that wine. Label making and assigning that label to a particular wine is an art that requires creativity, originality, artistic ability, a good eye, a graffic designer, knowledge of what is inside the bottle, where the wine will be marketed and sold, and a lot of money and luck. Labels can be in-expensive, where you see the same label on every bottle and just a different wine name, or each bottle can own its own label, (that is where they get pricey). Labels can define if that wine is feminine or masculine. Most reds tend to be masculine, however, Sultry Cellars are all red wines and they are all feminine. Go figure!
As our short trip on the wine bottle labels comes to an end, in another article, I will invite you along as we conceive, design, and submit to the Government, wait for approval, (there are some words, pictures, and sayings, etc., that are not acceptable to the folks that approve or reject your label submission). These folks are the LABEL GODS that determine if you re-do or un-do or scrap that label and start over. We then shop pricing upon approval, and await arrival of printed labels that show up in huge rolls, alternating front and back labels. Ever wonder how the label gets on the bottle? I will take you on that circuitous day trip next month. Be sure you bring along your bottle opener, ‘cause corks and capsules are another interesting story.
QUINFO: The labels matter if you are not familiar with that wine. Once you find what you like, enjoy it every time you buy and drink wine. Want to have a wine life full of adventure and risk? Hit the Verde Valley Wine Trail in Northern Arizona; take an overnight trip to Sonoita in SW Arizona, or Willcox in SE Arizona. Grab danger by the throat and try wines at tasting rooms that you are afraid of or have never tried before. That is the fun of tasting rooms where the Soms are full of knowledge about their wines. And, buy AzLo (Arizona Local). Yes, Arizona does grow grapes and our Arizona Growers and Winemakers produce World Class Wines.
Questions, comments? Call me. 480-518-3844.
Wine Business Monthly bestowed this honor on John McLoughlin’s collection named Fiddlebender for its
reflection of his pioneer spirit and his quest to set AZ wine apart from everyone else.
In November our vigneron, John McLoughlin received the Gold Growers Cup, the highest distinction for an Arizona winemaker, at the Festival at The Farm
John McLoughlin’s sassy, Sultry Cellars labels are only one of his select series labels meant to stimulate your perception of AZ Wine. Read Richard Ruelas’ article on AZCentral.com.
Proud mom, Marge Black-Graziano and sister Carrie help celebrate John’s well deserved victory!
A victory, not just for John McLoughlin, but for the Arizona Wine Industry. John took Best Of Show with his Bitter Creek Winery series wine, “Death”. Bitter Creek Winery also took awards in the categories of Wine of Distinction and Judge’s Favorite as overseen by some of AZ’s finest chefs, and renowned Sommeliers and Certified Wine Specialists.
John was stunned. “We submitted this year, just to see what would happen, to get a feel for some feedback on the upcoming releases.”
In true John fashion, he quickly credited the victory to his family and staff at the Cellar 433 wineroom in Jerome, Dragoon Mountain Vineyards in Willcox and the heart of operations, “MHQ” in Mesa.
“If it wasn’t for such a great group of individuals such as yourselves, this wouldn’t have been possible.” John said in an e-mail to his entire staff. This victory is especially sweet, as the fruits harvested for these wines came exclusively from Arizona soil.
The victory comes at a time when John is sponsoring an effort to create two American Viticultural Areas, (AVA) for the area around Willcox. On Friday afternoon, Paul Hagar, Special Projects Manager, described the completed petitions that will be submitted to the Federal Government by the end of the month. Members of the industry, who were in attendance, were very supportive of this effort. Commenting on the extensive research and organizational effort required to complete all the materials for filing, Mark Cave, GM of Arizona Stronghold said in an e-mail, “Thanks for all the legwork on this…”
Regarding the AVA applications, approval can take up to one year. We look forward to achieving a recognized status that we can legally include on our wine labels. Exciting Times!
Join John McLoughlin in Tombstone, AZ as he helps kick-off this inaugural event with his 100% Arizona grown wines!
For our Northern AZ friends, Join us at Cliff Castle Casino on November 2nd from 1pm-5pm. Music, Food, Wine and Barrel Auction!
Wine Name: The Emperor
Alcohol Content: 14.0%
Blend: 70% Grenache, 10% Pt Sirah, 10%Marselan,
5% Alicante Bouschet, 5% Blaufrankisch
Description: Aromas of cherry, spice and earth with a hint of maple syrup precede a mid-bodied and balanced red with
flavors of cherry, plums and spice.
Winemaker’s Notes: One would expect Grenache to be
playing a supporting role, but in this wine its high alcohol and berriness are fleshed out with with the desired qualities of the other grapes’ known earthy and spice notes and fuzzy tannins.
Pairings: Pomegranate marinated lamb olive tepanade and chevre crostini, or Spanish Roncal cheese.
Read about The Emperor on AZWineMonk.com