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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What does it mean when a wine label says “cellared and bottled by”?

—David P., Mission Viejo, Calif.

Dear David,

When a wine label reads “cellared and bottled by,” it means that the company whose name is on the label did not make the wine (if it did, the label would say “produced by”). It’s not unusual, and it doesn’t mean the wine is bad, it just means that someone else made it.

Someone who buys wine that someone else made and sells it under their own label is called a négociant. The buying and selling of bulk wine is a standard practice in the wine business. There are some really good négociant brands out there, including some terrific values. The original producers may sell their wine to make some quick cash, to deal with overstock, or because they just prefer to focus on making wine rather than bottling or marketing it. A négociant might “finish” the wine (for example, by aging it further before bottling) or perhaps make it a part of a blend.

There's another, more complicated scenario which requires the "cellared and bottled by" wording, and it doesn't have to do with who made the wine as much as it has to do with the letter of U.S. law. If, for example, an ambitious California-based vintner wants to make a wine from the Willamette Valley of Oregon (and has the grapes shipped to their California winery to produce the wine), they are required to say "cellared and bottled by" to label the wine as Willamette Valley, but can say "produced and bottled by" if they go with the broader Oregon appellation. Strange and confusing, right?

—Dr. Vinny

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