Stephen-Meuse-653x436 (1)
Recording a Test Kitchen radio segment with host Christopher Kimball

The kinds of things a wine producer can say on a label are pretty strictly regulated. First there are the national authorities in each country who are responsible for upholding the rules associated with marketing appellation wine. Then there are rules imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms for wine sold in the U.S.  You might think that there wouldn’t be any room left for creativity on a wine label—but that would be to underestimate the ingenuity of winemakers the world over.

Some wording is little more than marketing. The word “reserve” on a wine label may have a legal meaning (depending on where the wine is from), but it may just as easily serve only to distinguish one wine one from another at a single property.

One designation that’s frequently seen is “old vine.” You’ll see vieilles vignes on French wine labels, alte Reben on German, and vecchie viti on bottles from Italy. There are equivalents in other languages.

The meaning of such phrases is somewhat vague. Although it’s clear they refer to vines of some advanced age (each term literally means old vines), it isn’t clear (a) how old ‘old’ is and (b) why we should care.

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