Appellations: The Location, location, location of Wine.

Just like the phrase from the real estate world, wine is often all about location, location, location. In the case of wine the terminology used is appellation. A wine’s appellation is the details on its bloodlines or where the grapes used to make the wine were grown. We are fairly accustomed to viewing an appellation on most wine labels though their use on a wine label is not a required item, but if one is used the wine blend must meet specific percentage requirements. In this case I wanted to show an example of the largest yet rarely seen appellation available to US wines, the American appellation.

First, my thanks to a past student Desiree for providing this label example after I mentioned that I’d never seen a wine label that used “American” as its appellation. So what does it mean? What I generally say when it comes to all wine label information is that more is more and less is less. Translate that to mean broader is less and narrower is more. If a wine label lists more narrow terms then we know more specific detail about the wine and on the opposite end of that scenario the broader the terms used the less detail we are privy to. In the case of using an appellation on a label such as American this is an example of a political subdivision type which requires at least 75% of the wine blend to have come from the named appellation.

So in looking at this label we only know that at least 75% of it was sourced from fruit grown anywhere across the US. That’s quite a broad range of possibilities. On the other hand with a wine label that lists Cole Ranch (the smallest US appellation located in Mendocino County) we know that at least 85% of its blend was sourced from grapes grown within the 150 acres it consists of. Since an appellation is not a required item on a wine label I wonder a bit why the owner of this brand chose to put one as broad as American. Perhaps they were seeing that as a classic marketing line, “Buy American”.

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