Many producers the world over make a reserve wine in addition to their regular offering, the reserve being of higher quality (theoretically) and higher price (dependably). In the United States, a reserve wine may be a selection of the best lots of wine from grapes grown in the best vineyards, and/or it may be a wine that has been allowed to age longer before release. But since the term reserve is not actually defined by United States law, an embarrassing number of producers use it purely as a marketing ploy to get you to buy wine that is in fact of cheap quality and pretty pedestrian. The one exception to this is Washington State, where in 1999, an industry group, the Washington Wine Quality Alliance, set forth its own stipulations regarding the term reserve. Members of the alliance—virtually all of the top wine producers in the state—agreed to use the term reserve only for 10 percent of a winery’s production or 3,000 cases, whichever is greater. Additionally, a wine labeled reserve must be among the higher priced wines the winery produces and all of the grapes for the wine must be grown in Washington State. In contrast to the United States, most European countries strictly define the terms reserve, riserva (Italy), reserva (Spain), and the like.


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