Learn how to read a wine label and discover the valuable information hidden there. This knowledge will make choosing the perfect bottle for any occasion less overwhelming. Since every wine-producing country has different government requirements as to what can be included, some labels will have more information than others. Below are components common to wine labels.
Growing Region: Growing region is an area of consistent climate and soil conditions to cultivate a specific type of grape. A majority of labels will list the growing region right before the name of the wine, such as “Napa Valley” Chardonnay. The exception is European wines, which use the growing region as the name of their wine.
Vintage: Vintage is the year the grapes for a particular wine were harvested. It bears no relationship to when it was bottled.
Wine Producer: The producer is the establishment that makes a particular wine. Wine producer’s names in Italy, Germany and Spain contain the word “Estates”. In Europe, they reference “houses and surnames”, and in France it is common to name them “chateaus and domains”.
Varietal Name: Varietal name is the name of the grape(s) used to produce a particular wine, such as Riesling or Chardonnay. It is common for France and Italy not to list this information.
Alcohol Content/Bottle Volume: Alcohol content and bottle volume are the easiest to identify on a label. The alcohol content is referred to as a percentage. In the United States, the minimum alcohol for table wine is 7% and the maximum is 14%. The exception is Sherry, with an alcohol range of 17% to 20%. Bottle volume is commonly referred to in milliliters/ liters. The typical bottle of wine is 1.5 liters.
Last, when learning how to read a wine label, don’t forget there is a back label. Here the producer will include details such as a flavor profile, how long the wine was aged, history of the vineyard, and more.
by Kim Phelan