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06 Dec 2015 By

A sommelier shares the 10 words you’ll find on high-quality wine bottles under $40.

By Libby Kane

Affordable wine doesn’t have to taste cheap. But how can you tell you have a good bottle before pouring that first glass?

“Many wine consumers are still challenged by the abundance of language on a wine label,” says Jörn Kleinhans, owner of the The Sommelier Company. “It’s difficult enough with an English label, but adding the other languages and countries, it becomes very difficult.”

Kleinhans explains that certain words, often those regulated by local government in the region a wine is produced, are reliable indicators of high-quality wine at any price point.

Here are ten words he recommends looking for on wines under $30, to guarantee you’re getting the best bottle on the shelf.

wine bottles

‘CLASSICO’ on a Chianti

Chianti is a popular wine in the US, Kleinhans explains, because it was the first wine that commercially exported from Italy in large amounts. However, he says, ‘Wine that is only labelled Chianti is usually not very good. If you see ‘Chianti Classico,’ that is always a good wine.’

‘The term ‘Classico’ describes the local best core-growing regions of this type of wine,’ he continues. ‘The core vineyards in the center of the region that have the best terroir and the best orientation to the sun.’

Other vineyards may also produce a wine called Chianti, but they aren’t permitted to add ‘Classico.’ Kleinhans explains that the distinction is an important one when looking to experience ‘classical notes of tomato paste and vanilla’ typical of the wine.

‘GRAN RESERVA’ on a Rioja

Rioja, Kleinhans says, is the most important wine of Spain. It can be labelled as either ‘Reserva’ or ‘Gran Reserva,’ but ‘you’re always looking for, without exception, the Gran Reserva,’ says Kleinhans. ‘It means this wine has a strong oak flavour, the hallmark flavour of Rioja. It also guarantees this wine has been aged in oak for two years or more, and an additional three years in the bottle.’

Kleinhans says Rioja Gran Reserva is ‘probably one of the greatest high-end wines in the world that you can get at tremendous value.’

red wine

‘CRU BOURGEOIS’ on a Bordeaux

The ‘Cru Bourgeois’ distinction has to do with the French region of Bordeaux, where these wines are produced. The greatest wines of the region are classified as ‘Grand Cru Classé,’ which Kleinhans explains has been so successful that prices went through the roof and bottles are no longer available for under $US40 or $US50.

‘For the value lovers, ‘Cru Bourgeois’ is the back door to get outstanding Bordeaux for under $US25,’ he says. ‘Those are the chateaus not allowed into the Grand Cru classification 150 years ago. Several outstanding chateaus were left aside, and nowadays these wines not labelled Grand Cru, but Cru Bourgeois, you can get at a great value. It’s the level right under the Grand Cru level people are paying thousands for.’

‘TROCKEN’ on a Riesling

If you don’t like Riesling because you find it overly sweet, Kleinhans says you’ll want to keep an eye out for the word ‘Trocken’ on the German varieties of this wine.

‘In the US we often enjoy drier wines, and the Germans have a word for it: trocken,’ he says.

‘GRAND VIN’ on a Bordeaux

Sometimes chateaus issue a number of different wines, explains Kleinhans, and Grand Vin denotes the first label. ‘It means the first wine of the house,’ he says. ‘The best berries of every vintage are selected into this wine — it’s not one of the leftover sell-offs. This is important because in many years in France, the lesser berries are very disappointing. Sometimes the Grand Vin is very expensive, but you can get many under $US25.’ The term Grand Vin can also be found on bottles marked Cru Bourgeois.

Read the rest at Business Insider

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