What’s in a Wine Label? Part 3

Several different wine bottles with different labels.

Unless the wine is identified by brand, there are 5 basic parts to a wine label.

When you go to choose a bottle of wine, in most cases you will have a huge selection. You may even have many hundreds of bottles of wine to choose from. It’s extremely helpful to know about appellation credentials, if you are trying to choose an outstanding wine for your custom wine cellar or wine cabinet. The information on a wine label can tell you everything you need to know about what’s in the bottle, if you are familiar with the information printed there.

5 Parts of a Wine Label

As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, one of two main types of wine labels in stores is labeled by brand name. Wine of a higher quality is designated by appellation credentials. There are details about appellation credentials for the U.S., Spain, Italy, and France between Part 1 and Part 2 of this 3-part series. And now, finally, below are the five common parts of a wine label designated by appellation credentials:

  1. The producer name is included somewhere on the label, such as at the top or bottom. This is an indication of who made the wine. On some American wine labels, there is an exception. Some have only the name of the wine without specifying the producer. Apothic Red, for example is produced by E&J Gallo.
  2. The region lets you know where the grapes are from that are used to produce the wine. The more specific the region, there is a better chance the wine is of a higher quality. Narrowing the source all the way to a particular site means wine is more refined, in most cases, and the cost is higher.
  3. Appellation or variety of wine used to make the wine is listed. Sometimes no varietal is given. In such cases, you may be able to figure out the wine grape by the appellation listed. A total of 15 nations have appellations that are officially regulated, though the rules vary enormously, as well as what is considered of chief importance when indicating quality.
  4. Vintage is the year the grapes were harvested. Serious wine connoisseurs become acquainted with vintage variations, so that they know which vintages to look for, to stock their custom wine cellar or wine cabinet. Wines that show “NV” for non-vintage or multi-vintage are wines of lower value, since they have the convenience of accessing wine from various vintages to formulate flavor.
  5. Alcohol content or alcohol by volume (ABV) lets you know the alcohol level of wine. High quality wines in some European wine regions are the only ones allowed to have an ABV of 13.5% or above. It’s different in the US, where alcohol content in wine can be as high as 17%.

What’s on your Wine Label?

The ability to make sense of a wine label is a sure sign that someone is a serious wine connoisseur. Would you happen to be one of those someones, who probably has a custom wine cellar or wine cabinet with a range of fine wines? If not, are you motivated yet to begin learning more about appellations?

What Information can you learn from a Wine Label?

What Information can you learn from a Wine Label?

There’s a lot of information available on a wine label. Reading a wine label properly can tell you exactly what you can expect from your wine before you buy it. Therefore, learning how to decipher the clues hidden in your wine label is an important skill for any wine lover. Of course, labels can look very different depending on what country your wine is from. Nevertheless, there are a few basic things that should be available on every wine label. Several different wine bottles with different labels.

The Producer and the Region

Locating the producer of the wine might be difficult. However, it should always be on the label. If it’s not obvious it will likely be in small print near the bottom of the label. Knowing the producer is good because if you like the wine it will be an easy way to collect more of the same, or branch out and try something knew from the same producer.

The region should also be easy to locate. If the region is broad the wine will likely be less expensive. The more specific the region is the higher the quality of the wine is likely to be. For example, the grapes might be sourced from a wide-ranging area or from a specific vineyard which would usually make it more exclusive and carefully crafted. This is a great indicator of quality.

The Grape Varietal

This is clearly key information. Some wines will be single varietal, meaning they are made from one type of grape, while others are blends of several different grape types. For example, one popular blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Sometimes labels will not reveal the type of grape used in making the wine. In these cases, the label will have an Appellation. If you search the specific Appellation listed on the label you can usually find the grape that was used to make the wine.

Alcohol Level

Checking the alcohol level of your wine is very important. How high the alcohol level is indicates how ripe the grapes were before they were harvested. Wines with high alcohol levels will tend to have a fuller body and less acid. By contrast, wines with less alcohol will tend to have higher acidity levels. Alcohol can also indicate sweetness. Generally speaking the more alcohol a wine has the dryer it’s going to be. If a wine has low levels of alcohol it’ll be sweeter.

The Vintage

Some vintages (years) are better than others for making wine. Therefore, if you do your research and learn which vintages are best for which regions picking the best wine will be a lot easier. If a wine doesn’t have a vintage it means it’s a blend from several different years. This usually means the wine is lower in value because it’s easier to control the flavour if you have grapes from several different years.

Happy hunting wine lovers!

Make sure to check out Rosehill Wine Cellars for all of your wine storage and wine drinking needs!