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Ask Dr. Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.




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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Aside from researching the producer and the vinification techniques, is there any way to tell if a wine has been co-fermented? Also, are these wines simply referred to as blends?

—Nicole, Las Vegas

Dear Nicole,

Unless a vintner chooses to mention on the label that grapes have been co-fermented, there’s no way to tell just by looking at a bottle. It’s not just co-fermentation techniques—there are dozens of winemaking decisions that aren’t required by law to be listed on a bottle of wine. So if you’re searching for wines that are natural-fermented, barrel-aged, unfined or unfiltered, none of these terms are automatically listed, though you might see them in the fine print.

Co-fermenting, by the way, is just what it sounds like—two or more different types of grapes are fermented together in the same vessel. The thinking is that this may give the different elements more of a chance to meld together than if they were just blended together after fermentation.

As with other blends, whether or not multiple grapes are listed on the label depends on both labeling laws and producers’ decisions about what they want to put on a label. So, for example, a Côte-Rôtie will be labeled just “Côte-Rôtie,” named for the place where the grapes are grown but without listing the grapes, even though it’s known that the wine is Syrah with up to 20 percent Viognier. Meanwhile, a wine from California can have up to 25 percent of other grapes blended in and still be named with its primary grape. Or a winemaker might choose to just refer to it with a proprietary name, like “Dr. Vinny’s Super Duper Blend.” (I’m so trademarking that.)

—Dr. Vinny

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