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Russ Briley Wine-ing: Creating proper wine labels can get complicated

Posted: May 18, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Russ Briley Russ Briley
Russ Briley

This column originally ran in the Ventura County Star on Aug. 6, 2011

During the process of making our wine I found the physical part of winemaking very difficult and exhausting. And learning the chemistry part of winemaking proved very confusing.

Going through the legal challenges of getting our ABC licenses, arranging a place to keep my wine and getting the necessary insurance also proved to be difficult and frustrating.

One of the things I thought would be easy was putting together the wine label. After submitting it to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, I became a real believer of checking and double checking. After three revisions I finally got it right.

Below are the many requirements that need to be on the label. There are basic rules and percentages that must be met, but the ones listed below are for California where the requirements are tougher.

If you have a vintage date, at least 95 percent must be from that vintage. Sometimes when topping off wine you can run short and you might have to use another vintage year to top off.

When a wine is labeled "Estate Bottled" it means that the vineyard and winery are at the same location and the wine is produced and bottled at this location.

If you say the wine is from California, 100 percent of the wine must be from California. If you list an AVA (American Viticultural Area), such as Napa Valley, 85 percent of the grapes must come from there. If you mention that the grapes came from a particular vineyard at least 95 percent of the grapes must be from there.

You need to list the alcohol by volume. This is one mistake I made, I just listed alcohol 14.8 percent and left off the by volume.

The label must have the declaration of sulfites and list the health warning statement. It has to be listed and presented exactly as it appears in the example, another mistake we made.

You have to list the brand name of your wine and what varietal makes up your wine. If you want to call your wine a cabernet sauvignon, it must contain at least 85 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes.

You must list where the wine was produced and bottled, including the city and state. You also must list the net contents in the wine container, listed in milliliters. A regular bottle of wine is 750 ML.

Believe it or not our last mistake came from the back label. When describing the vineyard and the AVA, we used the words "famed" and "outstanding" This is a no-no and you cannot use these type of adjectives when describing the wine.

© Ventura County Star

As well as writing a wine column for the Ventura County Star, Russ Briley, long time Santa Clarita Valley resident, recently completed the Wine Studies program at COC. Russ and his wife Nancy also own Nuggucciet Cellars, where they produce small lots of Pinot Noir wine. Visit Email Briley at


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