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There are so many wine options to choose from that it can be quite a bit overwhelming. Gazing at all of the beautiful bottles of wine that come in a variety of colors and shapes is a lot of fun. But how do you know you’re picking the right flavor for the occasion? Simple really, by learning how to read wine labels, that’s how. And the good news is, it’s much easier than you think.
The above illustration shows the basic anatomy of a wine bottle label. Learning how to read these labels will not only give you valuable information about that particular bottle of wine, but it will also help guide you to some really amazing wines. While most people just look at the name on the bottle and the price of the wine when planning to make a purchase, it’s much more beneficial to actually read the label and get all the details before making your final selection.
One of the main reasons that wine labels vary so much from one bottle to the next is quite simple, wine labeling does not have specific rules or regulations. Each vineyard has the liberty of creating their label and designing it any way they wish, and even include any details or information they choose. Although there is some information that must appear on the label under certain regulations, the majority of the information is optional. I know this may sound confusing, but this flexibility amongst vineyards actually makes choosing a wine more interesting. Mainly because since you know you’re not going to see the same label on every single bottle, it gives you the option to choose a really special and unique wine.
When reading a French wine label, it gives specific information, such as the Producer of the wine, the vintage year, the name of the grapes used and the source of the main ingredient in the wine. The name of the estate the grapes were grown on, the region of the country where the grapes were grown, the appellation control statement and the alcohol content are also listed.
The majority of wine labels usually include what are considered to be the basics, like the brand name and the name of the wine. But there is much more to explore on the wine label that can be quite educational. When reading through a label, you will usually find information such as:
- The Origin or location where the wine comes from.
- The name of the brand or the bottler’s name.
- The type of wine, for example: Cabernet Sauvignon
- The special qualities of color and taste that the wine possesses.
- The name of the specific grape or the Origin of the vineyard where the grapes were grown.
- The name of the Producer, this information tells you information about how the wine is produced.
- Information to certify that the winery produced the wine 100% from the beginning to the end of the full process.
- The alcohol content stating the percentage found within the bottle.
- The net contents stating the fluid volume in measurements.
- The sulfite declaration.
The mandatory Federal government warning.
Some wine labels may have more unique information on them, such as allergen information. It’s unfortunate that these days much of the population seems to be having more allergic reactions to different types of things than ever before. As a result, it’s mandatory and enforced by law for wines produced in Australia and New Zealand to have an allergen warning. This is requested specifically due to the fact that they use specific ingredients in their clarifying processes. Not all wines produced in Australia and New Zealand follow the same process, but those that do use a clarifying process of wines that uses egg whites and milk. Although not every wine producer uses this technique, it is slowly becoming more popular. As a general rule, you should always make sure you search wine labels for any allergen warnings. Even though most wines do not contain these ingredients, it’s always best to be safe.
The above German and Italian wine labels are two more examples that show how different the information can be from one wine bottle to the next. But don’t let the differences fool you. If you take your time and read through the labels you will eventually start to see the similarities between them. And that’s when things will start to come together for you and you will start to look for certain information rather than just reading through it.
In the end, a wine label contains all of the information necessary to help you evaluate a bottle of wine before you make your decision to purchase it. By getting into the habit of reading through them as you browse the wine shelves, you will eventually get a knack for picking out wines based on their label. And believe me, the more you practice, the easier it will get. So let’s get to reading them labels and learning how to use all of that printed information to pick some winners. Cheers!
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