How to read a wine label: Part Four (Chilean Wines)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing tips on how to examine wine labels from different regions. First with US wines, next France, then New Zealand. This week’s region was requested by a fellow grape geek, John. Let’s discuss Chilean wines!

Chilean Wines (Classified as New World)sena

Red grapes account for approximately 73% of the total acreage in Chile

Wine Regulation (systems of defining & regulating wine growing regions and practices)

  • Established in 1995, instituted the 75% rule: vintage, varietal, and denomination of origin must, if listed on the bottle, comprise a minimum 75% of the blend.  (although many wineries observe an 85% minimum for all three categories, in order to comply with EU standards for export).
  • Only permitted varietals may be used, and hybrid grapes are forbidden.
  • Must show a minimum alcohol content of 11.5%.
  • Wines labeled “Reserva” and “Reserva Especial” must have a minimum 12% abv, and wines labeled “Reserva Privada” and “Gran Reserva” require a minimum 12.5% abv.
  • In addition, “Reserva Especial” and “Gran Reserva” wines spend mandatory time in oak.

*In 2011, the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture amended wine law to support three new geographic terms: Costa, Entre Cordilleras, and Andes.  On labels, producers may now append one of the pre-existing DOs with one of these three new appellations, which signify the proximity of a vineyard to the coast (“Costa”) or to the mountains. Entre Cordilleras – – “between mountains”- –  describes the valley areas between the coastal range and the Andes (3/4 of Chilean wine grapes are grown here). In order for a wine to qualify for one of the new designations, at least 85% of the grapes must be harvested in the appropriate region.

From north to south, the regional Denominations of Origin (DOs) of Chile are Atacama, Coquimbo, Aconcagua, the Valle Central (Central Valley), and Sur (the Southern Regions).

Atacama and Coquimbo DOs

  • Northernmost winegrowing region in Chile (requires irrigation)
  • Pisco and table grape production dominate both regions but in Coquimbo’s northern valleys (Elqui and Limari) are developing a reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Aconcagua DO

  • Subregions: Aconcagua Valley (warm climate) with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape varieties
  • Casablanca and San Antonio are located along the coast (cool climate)  with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grape varieties.

Fun fact:One of the premier reds of Chile, Errázuriz’s “Seña” (a Bordeaux-style blend), beat both Château Lafite and Château Margaux (remember those names from my  earlier post?) in the 2004 Berlin Tasting… a true testament of the quality of Chilean wines!.

Central Valley DO

Chile’s oldest and most established winemaking region

Cabernet Sauvignon.  Over 50% of the region’s more than 10,000 hectares are devoted to the grape, followed by Merlot, Chardonnay and Carmenère.Purple Angel

Subregions: Maipo Valley, Rapel Valley, Curicó, and Maule Valley

Puente Alto region produces some of Chile’s most premium red wines such as Concha y Toro’s “Don Melchor” and Errazuriz’s “Vinedo Chadwick” Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wines.

Sur DO

Itata, Bío Bío Valleys produce País and Muscat de Alexandria grape varietals.

Malleco Valley is a tiny region, with just a few hectares of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Was this helpful? Grab a Chilean wine and share your thoughts with me!

How to read a wine label: Part Three

In week one, we discussed wine labels from the United States. Week two, French wine labels. This week, I’m going back to the New World to share tips on New Zealand wines.

New Zealand is the world’s easternmost and southernmost winemaking country (cool climate).

New Zealand North Island Regions

Northland, Auckland, Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wellington (Wairarapa)

Grapes: Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc


New Zealand South Island Regions

Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury, Central Otago

Grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir

Marlborough produces over half of the entire country’s wine, with nearly 10,000 ha of Sauvignon Blanc.

You may have noticed bottles of Pinot Noir from Central Otago popping up in your wine shops. Central Otago is the world’s southernmost region and is acclaimed for producing some of the best Pinot Noirs that the New World has to offer.  So grab a bottle next time you see one!

New Zealand Regulations:

  • Declaration of vintage and varietal is optional
  • The wine must contain at least 85% of the named grape variety
  • If there are two or more varietals the total must be 85% and they have to be listed in
  • descending order
  • No laws governing enrichment, acidification, pruning, yields, or irrigation techniques

Have you uncorked a wine from New Zealand lately? I’d love to know your thoughts!

How to read a wine label: Part Two

Week one of my “How to read a wine label” series, I shared tips on how to read a wine label from the United States. This week, let’s focus on France! I won’t include Champagne region in this post since I’ve covered it in a previous blog post.

Wine Label Bordeaux - Image source:
Image source:

France (Classified as Old World)

Not labeled by grape variety, but by region.

Bordeaux  Region

White Grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc

Red Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc

Loire Region                           

White Grapes:  Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Melon de Bourgone

Red Grapes:  Cabernet Franc

Northern Rhone Regionwine-map-france

White Grapes: Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne

Red Grapes:  Syrah

Southern Rhone Region

White Grapes: Viognier, Rousanne

Red Grapes:  Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault,  Petite Sirah, Carignan

Other Southern French Regions include Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and Corsica, Southwestern France and Dordogne.

Burgundy Region                    Wine Label Burgundy

White Grapes: Chardonnay and Aligote

Red Grapes: Pinot Noir and Gamay

The higher quality wines are labeled as Grand Cru and Premier Cru.

Wine Regulation (systems of defining and regulating wine growing regions and practices)

  • Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) – most regulations/highest classification
  • Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) – between table wine and premium
  • Vin de France (Table Wine)
  • (if before 2009, AOP was called AOC and there was another category called Vin Delimite de Quality Superieure)

What’s your favorite wines from France? Did you learn anything new about it after reading this post?

Next week, I’ll share tips on how to read an Italian wine label.

Viral Customer Service Stories from the Restaurant Industry

I’m so thrilled that my past work at Morton’s is still being shared as a lesson in great customer service and word of mouth marketing. Check out these heart-warming stories!

Below is the full story from

5 Examples of Restaurant Word of Mouth That Became Big News

March 26th, 2013 at 7:00 am by

restaurant word of mouth storiesIn today’s digital world, a good deed can go a long way for your restaurant.  Social media, blogs and news feeds have made it easy to share just about anything – but the restaurant word of mouth stories that really go viral seem to have some common threads:

  • Outstanding customer service – doing something above and beyond the norm for customers who deserve it
  • A well-connected, digital-savvy customer who recognizes that outstanding customer service and shares it

Five Fantastic Examples of Customer Service Experiences That Went Viral

1.       Fixing a “broken” burger

This story actually just posted to Facebook about 24 hours ago, and as of writing this article, it had over 200,000 “likes,” over 10,000 comments and over 40,000 “shares.”  A family dining with their autistic sister at a Chili’s in Utah had a great experience due to the understanding and quick thinking of a server and her manager. It was as simple as replacing  the child’s “broken” cheeseburger with one that was not cut in half, but more importantly, talking to her in a way that she understood and acknowledging her needs.  The simple gestures made a world of difference in the dining experience for this family that would set the stage for the rest of their day.  A lovely note explaining the story and thanking the staff was posted to Chili’s Facebook page, and it exploded online from there with support from all over the country.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear about this touching story on the morning news, giving even more legs to this already popular story.

2.  The Well-Behaved Kids Discount

There has been a lot of recent negative word of mouth around servers or guests using their check or receipt to write newsworthy – though not always flattering – notes.  But an Italian restaurant in Washington made social waves when a customer posted a photo of their receipt, showing a $4 discount for their well-behaved kids, to Reddit.  There were a lot of shares, blog posts, articles and comments that resulted – some were negative, claiming families shouldn’t get discounts for acting the way they are supposed to, but most were positive, and the story gained a lot of attention for the restaurant either way.

3.  Mom 2 Bee Discount

Along those same lines, a Red Robin manager quietly comped a meal for an expectant mom visiting the restaurant, listing it as “Mom 2 Bee Good Luc” on the bill.  Her husband was so touched by the generosity, he sent an email to The Consumerist, a blog about customer experiences with businesses.  Not only did that blog post the story, but by the next day the story was on several news websites including ABC News and “Good Morning America,” which resulted in about 8,000 comments on that site alone.  The $11.50 discount resulted in media attention that could never be bought.

4.  Starbucks Cup Comments

A PR pro ordered the same coffee drink from Starbucks every day when her husband went in to get coffee for both of them.  One day when she ordered a larger size than usual, and her husband returned with her large coffee, which included a hand written note on the cup saying “Hope your day gets better.” She was so impressed that the server knew she was in for a long day because she ordered a larger drink than usual, so she posted it to her social media pages.  Over the next few months, more conversations took place via her coffee cup, and her social network got in on the game, voting on ways to respond to questions and comments.  It’s as sweet story if you want to read the whole thing – but the social outcome was sweeter.  In a world where most people feel like another face in the crowd, this coffee experience created an individual experience that was shared across networks, setting them a part.

5.  Morton’s Steakhouse:  “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told”

Just in case you didn’t hear this story in 2011, Morton’s pulled off one of the greatest customer service moments – and social media wins – when they met a devoted customer at the airport with dinner.  They chose their subject wisely – Peter Shankman is an author, entrepreneur, speaker and worldwide connector, and a frequent diner of Morton’s Steakhouse.  They know him as a good regular customer and I would guess they know his clout in social media.  When Shankman had one particularly long day traveling for business with little time to eat, he was sitting at the airport on his way home tired and hungry, and jokingly tweeted that Morton’s should meet him at the airport with a porterhouse…. And they did.   This was a huge social media win for Morton’s, it’s been tweeted, retweeted and shared in every form  imaginable online, toted as the best customer service examples, and Morton’s is also renowned for their quick thinking, responsive social media team who pulled it off.

Remember, restaurant word of mouth needs not only a great story, but the right people to share it in the right way in order for it to go viral.  This can’t always be planned, and you never know who your customers are, so be sure you are providing the best experience possible with a personal touch for everyone.  Your restaurant word of mouth story could go viral.

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