While you may have enjoyed drinking a glass of excellent wine with dinner or purchased a reasonable number of different bottles of wine in the past, you probably have never stopped to take a really good look at the wine label. Most people who are just beginning their journey into becoming a true wine lover simply look at the wine label when buying wine for the brand of wine and the types of wine they are interested in and are content to leave it at that.
Part of the reason for this is the average wine label is often printed in a foreign language or due to the different terms being used is difficult to understand. But you should remember the information which is printed on the wine label is there to tell you practically everything you want to know about the precious liquid inside the bottle you are about to purchase. Once you have learned how to read the wine label, you will find yourself armed with the knowledge necessary become skilled at buying wine, even when you are purchasing wine online.
Each Wine Label Contains the Same Basic Information
When you pick up a bottle of wine the first thing you will notice is that there is a wine label on both the front and the back of the bottle and each wine label is packed with print both large and bold such as the winery name, as well as much smaller and harder to read print which includes the fine details about the individual wine itself. As you have no doubt noticed, different types of wine and of course the different wineries vary the style and design of their wine label, but all to a certain extent contain the same basic information.
The first and perhaps most important piece of information any wine label is going to include is the name of a winery or wine maker. This might be the name of the actual company which produced a particular wine or it could be a trademarked brand name, this will vary from one vintner to the next and many market their wines under a number of different labels.
A Wine Label Shows Where the Grapes Are Grown
Following this your attention should be drawn to the appellation area of a wine label. This particular area of a wine label is used to denote the region or in many cases the country the grapes for this particular wine are grown. You may find that the vintner may choose to be overly broad in his use of this area by simply listing California as the appellation or they may choose to be very specific.
For example if the appellation on the wine label were to read Cru Des Cotes Du Rhone such as you would find on a bottle of Domaine Du Pourra Gigondas, it would mean that the grapes for the wine were grown along the Rhone River. Not only is this important in helping you to determine where the grapes came from and perhaps the overall flavor and bouquet of a particular wine when purchasing wine online, but this information is specified by law. At some location on the wine label you will find legal information for example Appellation Controlee for French wines and Denominazione Della Origine Contrallata (DOC) for Italian wines. These regulations control how much of the bottle of wine can from grapes that are grown outside of the specified region, in most cases this is 15 percent or less.
A Wine Label Shows the Vintage
Most us know that when we look at a wine label, we are going to find the vintage for the wine listed. What many people do not know is that this is not necessarily when the wine was actually bottled. This is in fact a very common mistake the average person buying wine makes. As you look at the different wines for sale, the date shown on the wine label is the year in which the grapes were harvested.
In fact there are many instances where you will be buying wine for which the grapes were harvested many years before the wine made from them is placed into bottles. To help clarify this on a wine label some wineries will add the word vintage on the label. In Spain this word would be Cossecha and in Italy you would see Vendammia. However, most wine producing countries have laws requiring a minimum of 85 percent of the grapes used to make each wine to have been harvested the year that is listed as the vintage; the other 15 percent can come from another year.
The Variety Can Also Be Found on the Wine Label
The wine label also shows the particular variety of wine, the variety of wine indicates the very specific type of grapes that have been used to produce the wine you are looking at. However, not all wineries choose to disclose this particular piece of information. Those coming from France and Italy do not simply because their laws governing the production of wines are strict.
These laws require each region to produce traditional varieties of wines, for example Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot come from Cabernet in France. Other countries will let wine makers use a "non-varietal" grape with the production of wines that bear similar names, for example the US requires that 75 percent of the grapes used to make a specific variety be of the type of grapes that are named on the wine label.
Germany Indicates Ripeness on the Wine Label
German vintners have a tradition of listing not only the grapes ripeness on the wine label, but also the quality of the final product. Austria also follows this concept, albeit in a slightly different format. For example if you are looking at wine for sale which has the phrase "Kabinett" listed on the wine label; this indicates it was made using grapes at their lowest ripeness level. However it may also state "Qualitätswein mit Prädikat", indicating the highest quality level at this stage of ripeness.
Where the Wine Was Bottled
If when you are looking at a number of different types of wine you may see the phrase "Estate Bottled, Mise en Bouteilles au Chateau (French) or Gutsabfüllung (German)" one the wine label. This simple phrase on each wine label indicates that you are looking at wines for sale that were made using grapes that have been grown in a winery's personal vineyards, something that has long been a tradition in Europe and is rapidly gaining in popularity in the US.
Additional Required Information on a Wine Label
As you look at a wine label, you will find there is more information based in part on where the wine for sale comes from. For example on German wine you will find they all have an "Amptliche Prüfungs Nummer or AP Number". This is a serial number that is assigned to each wine as it receives its official taste test.
French wines carry a more traditional ranking on their wine label, for example you might see "Premier or Grand Cru" on a Burgundy that has been found to meet these very exacting standards. In the US it is the back label that is governed by very specific laws. It is here that the official "Surgeon General's health warning" governing the consumption of alcohol must be printed. Most labels also list the base alcohol content and the actual quantity of the bottle by volume. For those buying imported wine for sale in the US, the back wine label also lists the name and contact information of the importer.
Most Wine Labels Carry Extra Details
Once you have gotten past all of the required information on a wine label, there is a host of optional information you may find. For example many wineries choose to use the back wine label to add detailed winemaker's notes, you may also see details concerning any awards the wine or winery has earned over the history of their winery. Some use this space on their wine label to add in advertising about their other wines or products and of course you are always going to find that there is room for the UPC bar code.
Now that you know what to look for on a wine label, you should be able to look far more closely at any wine for sale and know exact what you are getting as well as determine whether or not it is one you should invest your time, your money and your taste buds in.