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Wine FAQ

Curious about wine lingo or decanting wine? Our H-E-B Wine Buyers have answers to the most frequently asked wine questions.

  • Question: What does vintage mean?


    The vintage year on a wine label is the harvest year of the grapes from which the wine was made. The characteristics of a particular vintage year are determined by the weather conditions and resulting grape crop. A California wine with a vintage date must be made from at least 95 percent of grapes harvested in the designated year.

  • Question: Are all wine ratings equal?


    Rating systems vary. Some rating systems are based on a 50 to 100-point scale, others on a 5-point scale. Keep in mind when looking at wine ratings, the evaluation is subjective. Factors like bottle variability, tasting conditions and the judges' likes and dislikes will influence a rating.

    You are the best judge when it comes to what wine you enjoy drinking. Ratings can be used as a helpful guideline for choosing a wine once you are familiar with the rater's preferred style.

  • Question: What is the 100-point rating system?


    The 100-point rating system is used by a variety of published wine critics.
    See Wine Ratings

  • Question: What is dessert wine?


    A dessert wine is usually a sweet wine that is paired with desserts or is served as a dessert. Because of its sweetness it is served in smaller qualities than table wines. In the U.S., dessert wine refers to wines that are fortified, using the addition of brandy or other spirits, to raise the alcohol level of a wine whether they are sweet or dry.

  • Question: What is kosher wine?


    A wine is kosher if it is made using strict rabbinical production techniques. A kosher wine cannot include any chemical additives, gelatin, lactose, glycerin, corn products or non-wine yeasts. In addition, the entire wine making process must be conducted by Sabbath-observing Jews under rabbinical supervision. Kosher wines are produced by wineries all over the world.

  • Question: Is all wine organic?


    The phrase "wine made from organically grown grapes" is used, because it is not accurate or legal to refer to "organic wine". Very few wines are totally organic, mainly because it is almost impossible to make wine without the use of the preservative Sulphur Dioxide. The few wines that are made in this way tend to deteriorate rapidly and have a short shelf life.

    Organic viticulture is when grapes are grown without the use of industrially synthesized products to combat pests and diseases or to increase the fertility of the soil. Viticulturists aim to increase the microbial activity in the soil by natural methods and in an environmentally friendly way. It is much easier to achieve this in warm, dry climates such as the south of France where fungal diseases do not pose a problem. Over half the world's organic grape growers are in France.

    Organic viticulture is labor intensive, and the yields are frequently lower than by conventional viticulture. This is why you may find yourself paying a little more for wine made from organically grown grapes.

  • Question: Is French wine better?


    Wines from different regions will vary in style, and you can find quality wines produced all over the world. Each wine region may produce many types of wines, but most likely specialize and excel in a few due to weather and growing conditions.

  • Question: What is Meritage wine?


    Meritage wines are an American expression of excellence for wines blended in the Bordeaux tradition. Meritage Wines (a combination of the words merit and heritage) are wines that are a certified blend of two or more of the following red varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carménère. White Meritage blends are a made from two or more of the following varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Sauvignon Vert. No single varietal can make up more that 90% of the blend.

  • Question: What is estate-bottled?


    This term can be used only if the label lists a viticultural area as its origin and if the bottling winery is located on land owned or controlled by the winery within the boundary of the area. The winery must also have crushed the grapes, fermented, finished, aged and bottled the wine without the wine ever leaving the premises of the winery.