Is Estate Bottled Wine a big deal?

Sheldrake Point Winery wines are nearly all estate bottled wines. Is estate bottled wine a big deal? Depends on who you ask. It’s just the way we make our wine, and ‘estate wine’ is even part of our mission statement.

However, we don’t get to arbitrarily call our wines estate bottled. The U.S. government, through the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (known as the TTB), sets specific requirements regarding wine labels. These laws are intended to provide consumers with necessary information, something like a full disclosure. Though, the laws regarding a wine’s true origin can get pretty fuzzy.

Labels Matter

Nine grape varieties on 44 acres provide Sheldrake Point with all of our estate grapes.

Nine grape varieties on 44 acres provide Sheldrake Point with all of our estate grapes.

Unless a label reads “produced” or “made by,” the wine inside the bottle wasn’t technically produced or made by the company listed on the label. Legally, someone needs to take credit for a bottle of wine, so it’s mandatory that every bottle is labeled as either “bottled by” or “packed by” the name of the company that handled it. You can further define a wine by saying it was “produced and bottled” or “made and bottled” by the winery named on the label, but only if at least 75 percent of the grapes were fermented at that winery. The rest, up to 25 percent, could come from somewhere else.

A more rare term is “estate bottled,” which means:

  1. The winery listed on the label owns or controls 100 percent of the grapes that went into the bottle;
  2. The wine was crushed, fermented, finished, aged, and bottled all in the same place; and
  3. That place has to be located in the same AVA (American Viticultural Area) stated on the label.

On a French wine label, the term “mise en bouteille au chateau” means “bottled at the winery.” In German, the word for estate bottled is “gutsabfullung.” And on Italian labels, you’ll see the phrase “imbottigliato all’origine.” When you see “estate” on a wine label in the United States, it means something very specific—and actually something pretty special—like those analogous wines from France, Germany, and Italy.

Estate Bottled wine is kind of a big deal

Estate bottled wines are a big deal to wine buyers, sommeliers, and liquor stores. Such a big deal that we were convinced to move “estate bottled” from the back to the front of our labels for the 2014 vintage. The perception is that the extra effort we put into maintaining our vineyard and the risk we take on by nurturing the operation from planting to bud break to bottling, make for a superior product.

Current limited production of 20 cases will be increased to over 200 cases with 500 new Muscat vines, for our newest estate bottled wine.

Current limited production of 20 cases will be increased to over 200 cases with 500 new Muscat vines, for our newest estate bottled wine.

Without a doubt, our estate bottled wine is made with tender loving care, an expression of the fullest level of involvement a winemaker can have with a winery’s products. Furthermore, the product in a bottle of estate wine is a true reflection of the vineyard, the winemaker, and the annual vagaries of Mother Nature.

With the exception of our Ice Apple Wine  (the apples for this wine are grown by Cornell University, not us), all wines at Sheldrake Point are estate bottled. Like many small producers around the world, we are a committed to our terroir and to the art and expertise of our vineyard and winemaking teams.

Simply put, Sheldrake Point Winery has all the resources and equipment required to make estate bottled wine. Not all wineries do! Next time, we’ll tell you about another side of winemaking: our Custom Crush operation!

So, when you see “Estate Grown” or Estate Bottled when shopping for wines, stop to consider that you are looking at a very specific and unique expression of that winery’s property, the vineyard management, and the winemaker’s skill and vision. Better yet, pour a glass to experience for yourself: Is estate bottled wine a big deal?

MuscatPlanting

An estate winery has the space and resources to experiment. We had a single row of Muscat for a number of years, and now that we have a new product, we’ve added 500 vines.

With experience developed in wineries throughout the Finger Lakes, Dave can always be found in our winery or lab, gently and patiently tending to the fermentation and aging of our wines while caring for our tanks, barrels and equipment. Armed with two degrees in chemistry and two in philosophy, Dave not only brings us expertise in the wine lab and on the crush pad, he also can be heard waxing poetic virtues of everything from Plato’s cave to contemporary third-party politics.