Oregon maintains some of the strictest wine labeling regulations of any state regarding declaration of grape origin and varietal. Learn how to read an Oregon label. Access the curriculum.

Congratulations to the week 2 prize winners. They won Oregon wine water bottles. Whoo!

Alice Itsell, Wine Cellar Specialist, AJ’s Fine Foods

Rodney Knicely, Director of Food and Beverage, Crowne Plaza Portland


>>What year were Oregon’s strict labeling regulations adopted?

A: 1977

>>If a wine is labeled Rogue Valley what is the minimum percentage of Rogue Valley grapes that must be included in the wine?

A: 95%

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden of the Applegate Valley, nested within the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon 

>>A customer asks you to compare two bottles of Oregon wine that you are unfamiliar with. One bottle is labeled Oregon and the other is labeled Dundee Hills. Do your best to explain the differences you can deduct from the label, without discussing vintage.

Alice Itsell, Wine Cellar Specialist, AJ’s Fine Foods:

In discussing the differences between these bottles, one labeled Oregon and the second label with the AVA designate of Dundee Hills, I would start with the Oregon labeled wine.

Each wine is a product of Oregon’s great wine industry but in different degrees of sourcing, make up and production. The wine labeled with the Oregon AVA statement, the sourcing of the fruit is 100% from the state of Oregon. So the grapes may be sourced from multiple growing regions within the state. Thus the fruit may have a variety of characteristics that will need blending to create a balanced wine. The varietal labeled on the bottle, such as Pinot Noir, 90% of Pinot Noir grapes must be used to create the wine. For the production of the wine, this can be completed in Oregon or outside the state. These styles of wines are a good overall representation of Oregon wines, showing style, character, and value. Remember, for these wines to make the strict codes for the Oregon wine industry, 100% of the wine must be sourced from Oregon and 90% of the varietal labeled on the bottle must be used.

The wine labeled with Dundee Hills represents a smaller growing region within the state known as an AVA. This AVA designation represents a particular growing region that has distinct characters to its land, soil, weather, elevation, etc. Wines from these areas must have 95% of their grapes sourced from the stated AVA. Additionally, the varietal on the label, such as Pinot Noir, 90% of this varietal must be in the bottle. The production of all AVA wines must be completed in Oregon.

These standards are stricter than the stated federal regulations for the wine industry, but these also bring an assurance to the sourcing, quality, and cost of the products. As customers become more educated on labeling practices of Oregon wines, they are assured and understand the value and quality of product in the bottle and in an enjoyable glass of wine.

Rodney Knicely, Director of Food and Beverage, Crowne Plaza Portland:

When elaborating about the label information to a customer, begin by stating “Oregon has set a standard above the rest of the country”. This is because in 1977 Oregon began to enforce strict labeling regulation. The winemakers then understood the need to make every wine bottle a signature of the Pacific Northwest.

Any wine labeled “Oregon” has been guaranteed that 100 percent of those grapes were grown in Oregon and at least 90 percent of that wine is the varietal on the label. This far exceeds the Federal regulation of 75 percent. But what it doesn’t say, was the wine was made in Oregon.

On the other hand, the bottle labeled ” Dundee Hills” is from the Dundee Hills AVA and is guaranteed to have 95 percent of those grapes from that region. The Dundee Hills on the label also assures the customer, that this wine was hand-crafted in Oregon. Because the Dundee Hills AVA is a small AVA between the Coast Range and the Chehalem Mountains, the grape were protected from the harsh winds during the growing season. And with only 2300 acres under vine and primarily volcanic Jory soil, the Dundee Hills on the label let’s us understand the style and fruit from that area. So, for that customer, there is abundance of information on each label of Oregon wine.