Does it mean anything when a wine label says "bottled by," "cellared by," or "estate bottled"?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

On a wine bottle, what is the meaning of “bottled by”?

—Lee R., Seaside, Ore.

Dear Lee,

Unless the label says “produced” or “made by,” the wine inside the bottle wasn’t technically produced or made by the company listed. So, if a label only reads “bottled by,” that means the company listed on the label didn’t make the wine, it just bottled it. It’s not unusual or a comment on quality, just a statement of logistics.

U.S. labeling laws get complicated quickly. Legally, someone needs to take credit for a bottle of wine, so it’s mandatory that every bottle says it was either “bottled by” or “packed by” the name of the company that handled it. Other optional statements can also be made. A label can say the wine was “bottled for” or “packed for” a company. If the label says “blended by,” that means the wine was mixed with other wines of the same class—as in, table wines were blended with other table wines.

Labels of imported wines have to list who the bottle was “imported by,” but they can also choose to say who it was “distributed by.” Most of the time I see the term “imported and distributed by” if it’s the same company. There are also variations like “imported and bottled by,” if you get my drift.

Then, you can further define a wine by saying it was “produced and bottled” or “made and bottled” by the winery named on the label, but only if at least 75 percent of the grapes were fermented there. The rest, up to 25 percent, could some from somewhere else.

“Cellared by,” “vinted by,” or “prepared by” indicate that the wine was aged or cellared before bottling. This term can be a little bit confusing, as I’ve gotten into in the past. This term is also used when a label doesn’t have a winery of its own. It might rent a space somewhere, but because it only has a license to make wine but doesn’t own a production facility, it can only claim “cellared and bottled by.”

One of the more rare terms is “estate bottled,” which means that the winery listed on the label owns or controls 100 percent of the grapes that went into the bottle, and the wine was crushed, fermented, finished, aged and bottled all in the same place, and that place has to be located in the same viticultural area that’s stated on the label. Whew! That’s a lot of information!

—Dr. Vinny

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