22. October 2021

‘Reserve’ judgment: the meaningless word on a wine label


What is supposed by “reserve” on a wine label? Does it have any authorized that means?

A.H., Five Dock, NSW

Illustration by Simon Letch.

Illustration by Simon Letch.Credit:

It’s comprehensible that individuals are puzzled by this word, provided that we frequently see bottles, with costs starting from $20 to $200-plus, on the bottle-shop shelf labelled “Reserve”. I’ve tasted Reserve wines priced as little as $15. If you assumed such wines had been of particularly top quality, you’d be mistaken.

Sadly, there’s no legislation regarding the use of this word, simply as there aren’t any guidelines round the use of “single vineyard”, “special bin”, “family selection”, “old vines” and lots of different modern phrases that frequently embellish wine labels. Similarly with lobster as a claimed ingredient in cat meals.

It’s not so way back that wineries like Seppelt and Penfolds offered Royal Reserve manufacturers of sherry and port at the backside finish of the market. Did anybody actually consider they had been reserved for royals?

“Reserve” is a globally recognised description on wine labels. The French say vin de réserve, réserve personnel, réserve de la famille, or réserve particulière; the Spanish reserva and the Italians riserva.

At least the Italians have laws that governs the use of riserva. In barolo, for example, it means the wine has spent additional time maturing, first in the barrel after which in the bottle, earlier than sale and is deemed to be of a larger high quality than normal barolo. The query is, why has the word “reserve” been so debased in Australia?


The Jacob’s Creek Reserve vary is priced in the mid to excessive teenagers. I as soon as requested a marketer why they use the word “reserve” on such low-priced bottles, and the reply was that their brokers in varied nations requested for it. They calculated there was a marketplace for a “reserve”-branded model of the acquainted varietals, offered at a barely larger value.

Some wineries appear to make use of the time period comparatively. Berton Vineyard Reserve wines price between $15 and $20, not a lot of cash, however definitely a fancier value than its Head Over Heels wines at $8. Wyndham Estate used to have a Personal Reserve vary. I at all times apprehensive that proprietor Brian McGuigan have to be working out of money if he was being compelled to unload his private cellar. Silly me.

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