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Table wine is a wine term which is used in two different meanings in different countries: to signify a wine style and as a quality level within wine classification.

In the United States, table wine is primarily used as a designation of a wine style, and refers to "ordinary wine", which is neither fortified nor sparkling.[1]

In the European Union wine regulations, the term table wine (TW) is used for the lower of two overall quality categories for wine, while the higher category is called Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWpsr). All levels of national wine classification systems within the EU correspond to either the TW or the QWpsr level, although the terms that actually appear on wine labels are defined by national wine laws with the EU regulations as a framework.

Most EU countries have a national classification called "table wine" (always corresponding to EU TW), but using a term in the country's official language. Examples include vin de table in France, vino da tavola in Italy, vino de mesa in Spain and Tafelwein in Germany. These classifications generally represent the lowest level of classification in their country.

Contents

United States

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and Code of Federal Regulations define table wine as grape wine having an alcoholic strength of maximum 14 percent alcohol by volume.[2] Wines between 14% and 24% ABV are known as dessert wine. Table wine may also be designated using terms such as light wine, light white wine, red table wine, sweet table wine, as appropriate.

European Union

European Union guidelines stipulate that all wine produced must fall into one of two categories: table wine or the superior Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (often referred to as Quality wine p.s.r.).[3] Table wine typically is not permitted to disclose even its region of production (in France the producers must use postal codes to prevent the name of an appellation from appearing even in fine print on the label) or its vintage date (though "lot numbers" which can bear a striking resemblance to dates are permitted).

Distribution

The fraction of national production classified as table wine varies dramatically from country to country; as of 2000, in France, a majority (by volume) of wine is vin de table, while in Germany only 5% is deutscher Tafelwein. Table wine from anywhere in the EU can be blended together to produce European Table Wine.

European table wines are generally made from the highest-yielding sites and vinified in an industrial manner. In the 1950s, when per capita consumption of wine was much higher, there was a need for vast quantities of cheap wine, but now much of it goes into the European Union's troublesome "wine lake." Even today it is possible in France or Spain to purchase a litre of thin, pale wine, packaged in a box rather than a bottle, for the equivalent of a couple of U.S. dollars.

Naming contradictions

In contradiction to the presumed order, exceptional table wines are an uncommon but important fact in Europe. Ambitious wine-making outcomes may be classified as mere "table wine" if they are made from non-traditional grapes or with unconventional wine making processes. Even wines made with every measure of care (such as low vine yields and hand harvesting) and grown on sites otherwise entitled to a prestigious appellation may be denied status.

The best-known examples are the wines called Super Tuscans, which are made either with more than allowed quantities of international varieties (grapes not indigenous to Italy such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon) or without the once mandated inclusion of small proportions of Cannaiolo, Malvasia and Trebbiano per the relevant Tuscan appellation (i.e. Montevertine's Pergole Torte).

In 1992, Italy created the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) specifically to permit Super Tuscans to leave the table wine classification and become quality wine. Still, wherever legitimacy in a given appellation is stipulated by something more than a geographic boundary, one may find producers willing to ignore limitations in pursuit of extreme quality.

In common usage vin de table (often called vin ordinaire) is the 4th and lowest ranked wine under the French wine classification. These wines are the cheapest to buy and to make (they can be bought from €0,80), and are generally drunk accompanying a midday meal or used to make wine-based cocktails.

Notes

See also

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