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Snooth User: CuriousWine

Wine Words: Limited Meaning

Posted by CuriousWine, Feb 8, 2008.

My first grade teacher wasn't very good. I don't recall her ever doing anything other than playing piano or distributing milk and cookies for snack time. She did, however, teach me one thing I remember. "Nice," she said, "is a nice word." I believe she thought the phrase one of endearment for the word nice, but I have always understood it to be a warning against blasé language. Nice is a word that isn't very effective at conveying anything. Nice is innocuous, meaningless language. And what is language without meaning? Well, nothing at all really, except maybe a distraction, excuse, or filler.

Wine is not without its "nice" words. Take a look most wine labels and behold the vast swath of unexpressive garble. The word "reserve," for instance, has no real (i.e. legal) meaning on wines produced in the U.S.A. To be fair, many wineries that produce multiple ranges of wines label their higher tier wines as their "reserve" line. Unfortunately, less scrupulous wineries have taken to labeling all their wines as "reserve" regardless of the fact that they don’t produce a non-reserve wine. Likewise, you can also safely ignore those wines labeled "select." "Reserve" and "select" wines are no more unique than the "Special Edition" Pirates of the Caribbean DVD that 100 million people received for Christmas this year.

This brings me to my favorite example of semantic folly, wine labels that proclaim that the wine within is "limited edition." This phrase means nothing because all wine is limited edition. Both 2006 Yellowtail Shiraz and 1997 Screaming Eagle are limited edition; both were produced in finite (read "limited") quantities for their respective vintage (read "edition"). "Limited edition" is purposely misleading to consumers. It is deceptive and it makes me angry.

I understand the use of the phrase "limited edition" if a wine is a once off, an experiment, a trial of a new variety or such, but once that wine is produced for more than a one vintage, its time to lose the verbiage.

There are plenty of other terms (like those concerning production such as "artisan" and "handcrafted," and those describing tastes like "rich" and "balanced") that are tossed around on back labels so frequently that they’ve entered the realm of nicety. Beware of wines described as such. These wines are trying to sell you something: themselves.

Scott Rosenbaum is director of operations for the International Wine Center and wine buyer for the retailer DrinkUpNY .


Reply by Mark Angelillo, Feb 8, 2008.

Scott raises some valid points. Best to ask a good friend what they think first or take a look at what the community says before falling for some fancy language. Every product we're sold these days has a package... How to see past a snazzy marketing campaign?

Reply by Philip James, Feb 8, 2008.

Scott - I wrote on something similar a while ago. The only word that I felt had much significance was the word 'Estate'. Not that it implied quality, but at least it has a definition:

Blog comment by Dan, Feb 10, 2008.

Beware the taster (myself included) who says, "this wine is nice."

Blog comment by CNSmith, Feb 12, 2008.

What about "really" nice?

I suppose "Old Vines" falls under this heading, although I've heard some rumblingd to leagally define the term.

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