Reading a wine label can be confusing. There's a lot of marketing being done to try to get you to buy a wine. Everything from fancy artwork to cute names. And then there's the back label that describes all about the aromas, flavors and quality of the wine.
But actually, the three most important things on a wine label are the vintage date, the place where the grapes were grown, and the grape(s) used to produce the wine. The vintage date tells you that 95% of the wine in the bottle had to be harvested in the year listed. The place (State, County, or AVA) on the label tells you that 85% of the wine comes from the listed location. And finally, the grape varietal identified on the label ensures that the wine is produced from at least 75% of that grape variety.
But then on the back label you'll see statements such as "Vinted and bottled by" or “Cellared and bottled by” along with a winery's name, city and state. This is where things get murky. These phrases are sometimes used when a label does not have their own winery and may have had little to do with the making of this wine. They may be buying grapes to produce wine or even buying bulk wine and bottle it themselves and just putting their "Winery" label on the bottle.
Under another scenario, the "Cellared and bottled by" wording must be used by law if, for example, a winery located in the Napa AVA is producing wines from grapes grown in Sonoma's Russian River Valley AVA. These wines are still the winemakers, but they can't claim to have produced the wine.
If it says “Produced and Bottle by” it means that, by law, 75% or more of the wine in that bottle must be made by the producer listed. If the wine bottle says “Made and Bottled” it means at least 10% of the wine is made by the winery or company listed.
Now don't get me wrong. These caveats on the back label don't imply anything about the quality of the wine. You just need to realize that someone other than the company listed on the label may have grown the grapes or made the wine.
Now, you may now be asking yourself "So how can I tell if a winery is actually growing the grapes and making the wine?" We'll get to that next time. For now, cheers!