In order to protect the integrity of wine (and other alcoholic beverages,) the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) created label regulations. These regulations not only protect the integrity of the beverage, but they provide consumers with correct information about what they are purchasing.
Wine, more than almost anything else we consume, is a direct reflection of the land it came from. The same grape can be grown in different parts of the world and the resulting wine can taste drastically different. Terrior, farm practices, and winemaking techniques can all contribute to what makes a bottle of wine from France taste different from a bottle made in Oregon.
Not only does wine taste different that was produced on opposite sides of the globe, but wine also tastes different from state to state, AVA to AVA, and vineyard to vineyard. As Oregon was establishing itself as a special place to grow and produce wine, winemakers knew they needed to protect and distinguish the wine they were making. In 1977, Oregon winemakers joined together to create stricter regulations for themselves than the TTB had set out.
Since then, Oregon has been making quality wine that deserved the distinction. For more about what makes Oregon wine so unique, read our post on “terroir.”
Generally, people purchase a bottle of wine based on what grape is used to make the wine. Whether the wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Chardonnay, the name of the grape is important to know when purchasing wine. According to US Federal Regulations and for label regulations, an American wine must contain 75% of the grape named on the bottle. In Oregon, 90% of the wine must be made with the named grape, including the major Oregon grapes – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
There are a few varieties that are exempt from the 90% rule and are allowed to be blended with 25% of another grape. These grape varietals are traditionally blended grapes used in long-standing European winemaking tradition. This includes varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Marsanne, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Tannat, and Zinfandel.
APPELLATION OF ORIGIN
“Place” is arguably the most important distinction of a wine. According to federal law, if a wine label lists a place (country, state, county) 75% of the wine must be made with grapes grown in that specific place. If the label lists a specific AVA, 85% of the grapes must be grown in that AVA. To learn more about Oregon’s AVA’s, read this post.
Label regulations for Oregon wine takes this a step further by requiring that labels designating the wine is from Oregon or an Oregon AVA, 100% of those grapes must have been grown in Oregon and 95% from that AVA. This helps to showcase how unique and special Oregon wine is, even in relation to other AVA’s in the state.
JOINT DECLARATION TO PROTECT WINE PLACE AND ORIGIN
In 2005, the creation of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin was established, and Oregon and the Willamette Valley were original signatories. This movement was created to end purposeful mislabeling and misuse of geographic names and protect the reputations of wine regions around the world. Oregon shares these principles with over 20 of the most prestigious and famous wine regions across the globe.
Oregon and the Willamette Valley have always worked to make high-quality wine with care, craftsmanship, and integrity. Because of label regulations you know when you buy a bottle of wine with Oregon on the label, you are getting a true taste of place.
Now, what are you waiting for? Come and visit the Willamette Valley and taste for yourself.