Wine labels are an extremely important aspect of wine marketing. If you’re one of
the many people that have chosen a bottle of wine based on the look of the label
amongst a mountain of seemingly similar wines, then you know what we’re talking
about. But aside from the design, a wine label contains a lot of valuable information that could help you make a decision when faced with the countless number of choices of wine. In order to become a savvy wine consumer, you must know at least the basics of wine label information.
Typically, wine is classified into two categories: old world versus new world. Old
world wine refers to wines that are produced in Austria, France, Germany, Italy,
Portugal, Romania and Spain. New world wines are those that are produced in the
Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Since new world wine labels are generally easier to decipher, they will be the focus here.
The Basic Components:
1. Wine Maker or Winery: Typically printed in the largest font is the company or
firm name that produced the wine.
2. Appellation: This refers to the country or region where the grapes used to
produce the wine were grown. Wine-growing regions (appellations) can be as
broad as “California” or more specific like “Mendocino,” which refers to a county in Northern California’s Anderson Valley appellation.
3. Vintage: This refers to the year in which the grapes used to produce the wine
were harvested, not the year that the wine was bottled. Since wine production
involves periods of fermentation and aging, some wines can be bottled years after
their grapes were harvested.
4. Variety: Just like there are different varieties of apples, there are different
varieties of grapes grown all over the world. Some examples of varieties are
Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Chenin Blanc, as depicted in the image.
5. Alcohol Content: This number is based on a percentage by volume. The longer a wine is fermented, the more sugar will be converted into alcohol, yielding a higher percentage. That is why sweeter wines have a lower alcohol content as compared to drier, more full-bodied wines.
6. Estate Bottling and Winery Information: If the grapes used to produce the
wine were grown and harvested in the winery’s own vineyards, then this will be
disclosed on the label as “estate bottled” or “grown, produced and bottled.” In this
example, the wine was “Estate Bottled” in “La Ribera Vineyards.”
7. Special Designations (Not Depicted in Image): Sometimes, wines will have
designations such as, “Reserve” or “Special Selection,” given to higher end, higher
quality wines. However, there are no legal regulations as to the quality of the wines that can carry those designations, so take it with a grain of salt.
So there you have it, the basic wine label fundamentals for when you are choosing
your next bottle of wine. Remember, it does take some knowledge to pick a great
wine, like knowing regions, vineyards, varieties, etc., but that’s what makes wine
so unique! There are so many variables that can affect the outcome of how a wine
turns out, which makes it such a masterful craft.