What Should You Be Looking For On A Wine Label
RegionWhen learning how to read wine labels, this can sometimes be tricky. In many wines the wine region that the grapes are from is clearly labeled either on the front or back label. For example, most wines from California will clearly say Sonoma, Napa, Paso Robles, or some other wine producing region. Many European wines are entirely named by where the wine comes from. So, for example, Chianti comes from Chianti in Italy. The bottles don’t say what grape they are made from, just where they come from. This is true for many wines from Italy, France, Spain and other countries. If you aren’t familiar with the region or sub-region listed, you may not realize what it is. For example, if you see a French wine with a large Nuits-St.-Georges printed across the label you might not realize that this is where it is from. Nuits-St.-Georges is the name of a village in Burgundy. This will get easier and easier as you learn more about different wine regions around the world.
Whats Not On The Label
Producers may tellyou if egg or dairy products have been used for fining the wine, to make themclearer and brighter. But they dont have to say anything.
Similarly, they dont have to say anything about theirfarming methods. If a wine is labelled as organic or biodynamic, then it mustmeet those requirements, but cheap plonk is often the result of very intensivefarming methods. In particular, we worry about overproduction in Prosecco.
There is no requirement to tell you anything about the otheringredients in the wine for example the purple dye or oak chips that somelow-cost producers use. What yeast was used in the fermentation? Nor is thereany requirement to tell you anything about how the wine was made. Was itfermented in a concrete tank from 1970s or an expensive new French oak barrel?You may never know.
Check If The Wine Label Displays The Grape Variety
As mentioned before, most new world wines will display the grape variety right on the label of the bottle. For example, you might see “Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon,” on wine options from Napa Valley, “Mendoza Malbec” on South American wines, and “Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc as well. Here, you can look at the grape variety and see exactly what you’re buying.
Unfortunately, many bottles dont show the grape varietal on the front label. This especially holds true for old-world wines. Or in another case, chances are the producer used a blend of more than one grape. So how to read wine label in such a situation? Simply put, you can look for the appellation or get some help from the back label.
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Some Wines Are Labeled By Grape Variety
When you see a wine labeled with grape words like Cabernet Sauvignon or Albariño, then its labeled by . There are hundreds of and its possible to label a wine with more than one grape.
What Varietal Labeling Tells You
Wine labeled by variety doesnt guarantee that the wine is 100% of the listed variety. Each country has their own set of minimum requirements to label wine by variety :
- 75% USA
- 80% Argentina
- 85% Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, United Kingdom
How To Read Wine Labels
In general, knowing something about wine regions and the styles of wine they produce will get you much of the way to deciphering how to read wine labels. More understanding will come as you start to learn about different vintages, producers, grape varietals and so on. But for the beginning of learning how to read wine labels, it helps to have an outline of the important things you are looking for on a label. We will also give some examples from different regions to demonstrate and give you practice in how to read wine labels.
How to Read Wine Labels – An Italian Example: This is a front and back label of an Italian wine. The front label says “Falanghina” which is the name of the grape varietal. Below that is “Sant’Agata Dei Goti” with D.O.C. below it. The same is written on the back label with Denominazione di Origine Controllata under it. This DOC tag indicates that this is the region, or appellation, that the wine comes from. So Sant’Agata Dei Goti is where the grapes were grown. At the bottom of the front it says “Mustilli” which is the name of the producer. This is repeated on the back where it says “Bottled By: Az. Agr. Mustilli”. There is no vintage date on the front label, but 2005 is clearly marked on the back, as is the name of the importer, the volume of wine and the alcohol by volume .
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Why Do Wine Labels Have A Vintage
The year in which the grapes were harvested is known as the vintage. There is great importance behind vintage dates especially when there are climatic differences. This is because the quality and taste of the wine can vary each year because of the climate.
A lot of countries also allow a vintage wine to be mixed with a small amount of wine that is from a different year. This allowance in blending is important for winemakers because it enables them to produce wines of supreme quality and complexity.
How To Read A Wine Bottle Label From Italy
The next label from Italy puts the appellation of origin into the center of attention. Rosso di Montalcino is a DOC wine, which is the second-highest quality level in Italy.
Wine experts know that Rosso di Montalcino is a dry red wine made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes. So the appellation of origin gives you information about the varietal and the wines style and taste.
The number 2017 tells you that the wine is a vintage wine, and all grapes used to make it were harvested in this year.
Besides the appellation of origin and the vintage, the label contains a lot of information about the producer. You can find the name and logo in the top part and the exact geographical details about the vineyards in the bottom part.
Finally, you can find the alcohol content in the left bottom corner and the quantity in the right bottom corner.
Italian Wine Bottle Label
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How Is The Wine Different From Other Wines
Some special designations refer to production techniques that distinguish the wine from others, such as barrel fermented or unfiltered, which will make the wine more attractive depending on the consumer’s personal preference. Other terms, such as reserve, private reserve, special selection, barrel select, old vines, and estate bottled, indicate a qualitative distinction. In some cases, a special designation has no legal definition it means whatever the winery wants it to mean. A prime example is reserve, which has a legal definition in parts of Europe but none in the United States. The term implies that the wine meets higher standards for ripeness or aging, and this might be true for a wine so labeled, justifying its higher price tag. However, because use of the term is not regulated everywhere, wineries may put “reserve” on the label simply as a marketing ploy. The winery’s reputation should provide some guide as to whether the designation is meaningful.
On American wines, use of the term estate bottled is legally restricted. This phrase indicates that the wine was bottled where it was made and the grapes for the wine came either from the winery’s own vineyard or a vineyard on which the winery has a long lease. For French wines, chateau- or domaine-bottled means the same thing. Look for the phrase mis en bouteille au chateau on a Bordeaux wine and mis en bouteille au domaine on a Burgundy wine.
How To Read A Wine Bottle Label
Winemaking is a complicated business with many factors that determine the taste and the quality of a wine. Its origin, the varietal, the vintage, and other details can tell you a lot about it before drinking it. But to gather this information, you must be able to read a wine bottle label. Unfortunately, this can be difficult because winemakers dont use consistent designs with standardized information across the industry. To identify the essential pieces of information from every design, lets discuss how to read a wine label.
A wine bottle label is a small piece of paper that a vintner puts on a wine bottle to provide basic information about its content to consumers. It typically contains the wines name, the producers name, the appellation of origin, the varietal used to make it, the vintage, information about production methods and the wine style, and the alcohol content.
No matter if you are looking for wine in retail or ordering wine at a restaurant, the ability to read and understand a bottle label is essential to find one that you like. In this article, we will discuss the pieces of information you can find on wine bottle labels and what they mean.
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How To Read And Understand Wine Labels Like A Sommelier
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Wine Labels Across the World
If a wine has been bottled on the estate where it was produced, it will typically also be mentioned on the bottle. Look out for ‘Estate Bottled’ , ‘mis en bouteille au domaine’ or ‘Erzeugerabfüllung’ .
How to Read an Old World Wine Label
Classico This is a strictly Italian term, and refers to the original zone of production in a region. The idea of a geographical zone goes as far back as 1716 in Italy, when the Grand Duke of Tuscany drew the borders around Chianti, yet these zones have expanded over time to satisfy international demand. The issue with that, of course, is that the expansion often sees areas extended into less than ideal land for that particular grape, and as a result, quality suffers.Classico is a really useful term to know, as in almost all cases, the Classico wines are a step up in quality from the original. This applies to famous regions such as Chianti, Soave and Valpolicella, but also keep an eye out for the Classico versions of Bardolino, Caldaro, Ciro, Orvieto, Terlano, Verdicchio and Santa Maddalena.
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Which Us State Has The Strictest Wine Labeling Laws
Oregon has the strictest wine labeling law in the United States, especially in regards to the origin and variety of the grape. For example, if a winery displays a state, county, or country as their appellation, a minimum of 75% of the grapes must be grown from the region mentioned. These rules have been created to maintain the quality and integrity of their wine.
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Chteau Simone Palette Ros
Here is another traditional French label, from the small appellation of Palette, in Provence. It, too, has a coat of arms and depictions of grapes. But Palette is a simpler region than Burgundy, with only a handful of producers and without the hierarchy of vineyards and other distinctions, so the label neednt offer as much information.
1. Château Simone The name of the producer, in a kind of precursor to an Art Nouveau font, is superimposed over a rendering of the chateau and its vineyards.
2. Palette Appellation Palette Contrôlée, the official notice of the appellation, is given pride of place at the top of the label.
3. Mis en Bouteille au Château This goes one better than a simple mis en bouteille by specifying where the wine was bottled, at the place the wine was made.
4. Rougier, Propriétaire, Meyreuil France Propriétaire denotes the owner of the winery. Rougier is the surname of the family that owns Château Simone Meyreuil is the commune in Provence where it is situated.
And Finally Consider The Producer
A good rule of thumb? If you find a bottle of wine you absolutely love, memorize the producer. On most wine labels, the producer is listed in large font at the top of the bottle. In some cases , it’s a bit less obvious, listed in smaller print at the bottom of the label. You might already recognize some big name producers like R. LÃ³pez de Heredia, Marchesi Antinori, Louis Jadot, just to name a few. In any case, if you know a bit about the producer, you can tell a lot about the wine .
If you’re just starting to learn about wine, you might have to try a bunch of bottles in order to get to know which producers you like. That being said, you can also always check Vivino or other wine publications to learn about a specific producer and their reputation or wine-making style.
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Does The Wine Label Matter
Of course! Labels play an important role in all kinds of beverage marketing. Wine labels are just as important, if not more. The wine label provides you with all the information you need to know about that wine and helps you make a more informed decision when purchasing. Moreover, a wine label helps users understand the kind of wine inside the bottle and whether it will suit their needs.
Therefore, yes, a wine label does matter. It is the most immediate and complete source of information for the customer, when purchasing from a store.
The Appellation Of Origin
When reading a wine bottle label from a European wine country such as Italy or France, you will often find the wines appellation of origin. The appellation tells you where a wine comes from. Besides, its also a quality indicator because these appellations are heavily regulated by law. Only vintners that fulfill specific criteria regarding the production process, the ingredients, and the wine quality may put it on their bottles. Local and national authorities control the compliances with these rules and test the wines quality regularly.
Across Europe, you will find thousands of controlled appellations. In France, for instance, there are more than 450. But there is also a growing number of protected appellations in the United States. However, the American regulations in terms of production and ingredients are less strict than in European wine countries.
As its almost impossible to keep all appellations in mind, vintners typically put an additional term or an abbreviation next to the region name that indicates that the region is a controlled appellation. They vary from country to country, but their purpose is the same. Here are some of them:
- France: Appellation dOrigine Contrôlée
- Italy: Denominazione di Origine Controllata
- Portugal: Denominação de Origem Controlada
- Spain: Denominación de Origen
- Germany: Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete
- United States: American Viticultural Area
- Prodotto in Italia
- Produit de France
- Producto de España
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Categories Of Italian Wine
- Vino da Tavola generic table wine no specifications required
- Vino a Indicazione Geografica accommodates growers with more flexibility higher quality than VdT category wine
- Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata
- Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita
The two you may see most often are DOC or DOCG. To put it simply, DOC means controlled area of designation and DOCG, controlled area of designation, guaranteed. DOC wines are specific to an area they are grown in and follow certain standards. DOCG wines follow more stringent standards. DOCG wines have a paper band along the neck of a bottle with a serial number for authenticity some DOC wines have this paper band as well.
Hopefully this helps you feel more prepared when you head to the wine shop to pick out an Italian wine. If you need more clarification, please let us know. Were here to help you.
Or Check If The Label Displays An Age Classification
This applies more to those old world wines we talked about, but some regions use an age classification system, which is labeled on the bottle. Rioja is the most famous example. Rioja wines must follow certain aging requirements which begin with generic wines to “crianza,” “rioja,” and finally, “gran reserva”
So why should you care? These wines taste different. Younger wines tend to be be a bit more rugged and tannic. Whereas older wines, which have aged for much longer, will be more refined and softer.
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How To Read A Wine Label: 7 Essential Things To Look For
As the saying goes: always read your wine label beforepopping the cork.
Okay, so maybe we made that one up, but would you buygroceries without reading the label? Or order meal out without looking at theingredients? Of course not. As withany indulgent purchase, reading the finer details will ultimately help you tomake better choices.
You can learn a lot from a label. Especially if you knowwhat youre looking for. But its also important to understand what the labelisnt telling you.
So, how do youread a wine label?
Find Rare Wines From The Labels Listed Winemaker
As we noted earlier in this guide, a producer/winery name and winemaker arent always the same. For instance, Maison Louis Jadot was originally owned and operated by Louis Jadot in the 1800s, but today, the estates main winemaker is Frédéric Barnier, while the owners of the winery are the Kopf sisters and the winerys operator is Pierre-Henry Gagey. However, since Barnier is the one primarily responsible for how the wine tastes, youll likely see his name listed on any new bottles of Louis Jadot, which can tell you something about how that wine will taste, and what its worth.
Thats because every winemaker has a unique style that often alters the overall quality and flavor of an estates wine decade-to-decade. One winemaker might prefer a bold, fruit-forward wine, while another pursues a softer, more floral profile. While producers generally try to pick winemakers whose preferences will mesh well with the overarching reputation of the winery, theres always some slight variation whenever a winery changes winemakers. You can use this information to your advantage by identifying the winemakers that you enjoy, and seeking out wines that have this winemaker on the label. Top winemakers often work under a few different producers throughout their careers, so you might end up with bottles from more than one producer, which can make a fun comparison.
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