You can’t tell a book by its cover, or so they say. But how about wine? Its label tells a great deal — origin, producer, grape variety, alcoholic strength, etc But it may not and probably does not explain its name.
Sometimes that’s just as well. We find the names of French wines very appealing but that appeal may not be quite so endearing if the names were in English: “The Hill”; “Upper Brion”; “The White Horse,” etc.
This discourse results from two bottles I extricated from my Napa Valley collection of last fall. One was a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from a relatively new producer in St. Helena called Roots Run Deep Winery. The name on the label caught my attention: “Educated Guess.” The other bottle, a Bordeaux blend, came from well established and quite distinguished Carter Cellars in Calistoga:” Napa Valley Red Wine Table 5.” (Bordeaux blend, by the way, has neither legal nor precise meaning other than that the grapes blended into the wine are those associated with Bordeaux. It is also likely that the percentages of those grapes used from year to year will vary, hence you seldom see “Bordeaux Blend” on a label.)
The retailer of my Table 5 described it as a “restaurant” wine, presumably because he said it could deal with almost any food in need of a red wine — from risottos to pastas to steaks. At 14.6% I would agree with that, but in spite of its strength, it was gentle on the palate and easy to ingest. It lacked the pleasantly slightly bitter tannic finish of a Bordeaux but represented the firm and fruity length of California. It makes me want to sit at Table 5 whenever I dine out.
The Educated Guess label is a chemical table tracing the process by which grapes become wine. The back label admits that almost every step in the process results from an educated guess, and that the producers have “done the guesswork” for us. My retailer had it right. Educated Guess is “fun, approachable, and food friendly.”
So I admit it. I bought the wines because of the labels. I have not visited either winery and selected them because something about the label told me to. Cost was a consideration, but only a minor one. The Guess ran $20, Table 5 almost $40. Good value both.