Wine Label – How to Read Wine Labels Wine Label – How to Read Wine Labels - Personal Wine Gifts and News

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Wine Education

Wine Label – How to Read Wine Labels

wine label cabernet

Wine Label

Reading a wine label is pretty easy. Between the lines there are things that you can easily pull out. Follow some of the basics, and you’ll achieve Wine Pro status.

Here are 10 Wine Label Facts that will help you be the wine expert at your next wine party!

  1. French Wine – French winemakers have been making and selling wines for well over 1000 years. Since 1855, the French have had an official classification system that has stuck to this day. The French name a wine based on its appellation, or its geographical location. For example, Bordeaux wines are typically red blends consisting of Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Bordeaux classifies them by using terms like AOC which stands for Appellation Origine Controlle. This translates to Origin Controlled by Appellation (region). Burgundy comprises of Pinot Noir. All red wines that are classified in Burgundy as Premier Cru or Grand Cru are 100% Pinot Noir. These wines are also estate vineyard designations.

  2. American Wines really continue gain momentum since mid 60’s when winemakers started cultivating grapes for winemaking. At that time winemaking was marginally profitable. Today American wines are really classified and described by grape varietal. A wine label from a vineyard or winery in California will specially call out the grapes used in the wine. In the United States, multi-varietal wines are Red Blends or Proprietary Red Blends.

  3. A wine label must always have the country of origin if it is to be sold in the United States or in Europe. The reason for that is that the Federal governments regulate alcohol and require labeling to have a country of origin. Locate this on the front or back label of the bottle.

  4. Most foreign wine labels from quality vineyards or wineries have a quality designation with the source of the grapes used in the wines. These are strictly regulated and if abused, can result in a winery losing a designation forever, or worse… can land someone in jail for fraud. Winemakers in Europe don’t joke around about their wine!

    1. A wine label from France will have one the following: VDQS (Wines of Superior Quality), Vins de Pays (Country Wine), Vins de Table (Table Wine)

    2. Wine labels from Italy will have one the following: DOCG (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin), DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin), IGT (Typical Geographical Indication), Vini di Tavola (Table Wines)

    3. A wine label from Germany will have one the following: QWSA (Quality Wine with Special Attributes), QBA (Quality Wine from Specific Appellations), Deutscher Landwein (Superior Table Wine), Deutscher Tafelwein (Simple Table Wine)

    4. Wine labels from Spain will have one of the following: DO (Denomination of Origin), DOC (Denomination of Qualified Origin

  5. American wine labels typically use fanciful names to describe wines and some fanciful names have meaning, and some don’t. Here are some descriptive terms for an American wine label:

      1. Estate – Wine from grapes at the estate of the winery and vineyard.

      2. Reserve – Wines of formidable character or production. This is not a legal term to describe a wine, and sometimes this can be misleading as this can be used for marketing purposes.

      3. Vineyard – Wines using fruit from famous vineyards. An example: Lokoya who makes a handful of award-winning, highly prized wines. Lokoya sources wines from Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain and Mt Veeder. If you designate an area, American Viticulture Area, at least 85% of the wine must be from that specific area.

  6. If the wine says produced and bottled by Alex’s winery, then Alex’s winery made the wine and bottled it. That doesn’t mean they grew the grapes! If the bottle says Estate on it, then the grapes are grown, made and bottled on the estate.

  7. If you see Cellared by on the wine label, then this signifies that the wine is likely a private label. The wine blend is ultimately for a specific entity that may not actually be a physical vineyard or winery.

  8. All wine labels must have the % of Alcohol by Volume on the bottle.

  9. A wine label must have “May contain sulfites” or something that describes sulfites as all wines have sulfite in them. Some wines may have less than others, and some may have trace amounts, but all wines have sulfites and are required by law to state this on the label.

  10. Last but not least, there are many wineries that practice sustainable farming, including organic practices in the vineyard. Many wineries simply cannot afford the expense of getting an organic certification, yet still produce organic wines. Just because you don’t see the seal on the wine label, doesn’t mean that it is or it is not organic wine.

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