Don’t be tricked by the wine label

The bf and I felt like enjoying a big red this past weekend as we were settling in to a quiet Friday night at home. So we pulled this bottle from our always dwindling, yet constantly restocked wine rack…

Calfornia Cabernet Sauvignon… a Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Sonoma Valley. Upon sniffing, I detected the typical Cab Sav notes: green pepper, black cherry and with further sniffing I smelled vanilla. Then I taste it.


It was dry. I definitely tasted the black cherry, along with ripe black fruit, but what I was craving, which were the strong tannins, the full body, and hopefully the long finish (typically what you would get with a good Cab Sauv)… nada. Instead the body felt more like med to high and the tannins medium. The finish was medium, too.

How can this be? I looked at the label closely. Oh shit, it says vintner’s blend, which means other grapes have been used to make this wine. I suspect Merlot grapes and maybe even Zinfandel was thrown in the mix. Merlot is often blended with Cab Sauvs to soften the wine, which explains the medium tannins and body. And really thinking about it, the vanilla and slight hint of jammyness could’ve come from Zinfandel. Who knows though, unless you ask Ravens Wood.

If other grapes are used, why aren’t they on the label? Well, it’s predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and they did mention it’s the vintner’s blend. The highlighting of the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal is a marketing tactic. People buy what they recognize.

In the US, in order to have a grape varietal appear on the label, at least 75% of the wine in the bottle was made with it. The other 25% can be any varietal and indicating them is not required.

Oregon, though, dictates a higher percentage be used in order for it to be labelled a Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, etc wine. 90% is the magic number. However, Cabernet Sauvignon is an exception at a minimum of 75%. I have no idea why that’s the case.

Now, if you think you are finally getting the hang of it and starting to be able to distinguish the characteristics of certain varietals and come across a new world wine that isn’t what you expected, this could be why.

Ravens Wood retails for $17.99 at the BC Liquor Store. If you’re reading this from the US, go ahead gasp and laugh! Prices are ridiculous here in Canada, particularly in British Columbia.

Have you been tricked by a wine label? 

2 thoughts on “Don’t be tricked by the wine label

  1. “Always dwindling, yet constantly restocked win rack” – s’truth, love it!! Well put, Vanny! Moi aussi. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Sorry that this wine was a disappopintment. I recall having tried and enjoyed Ravenswood’s Zinfandel and Shiraz in particular, though I never paid attention to the vintner’s blend designation on those (or not). Good knowledge and now forewarned for expectation. Thanks!

  2. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Matthew. I enjoyed the wine, still. It just wasn’t as big as I had anticipated because I completely ignored the fact that it’s a blend!

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