Reading the wine bottle label correctly can save you a lot of time and energy when searching for a wine to purchase. Wine labels have a lot of information about the character and nature of the wine within. Even though every winery does things a little differently still there are 5 basic parts to every wine label. Learning these key characteristics may not tell you how the wine will taste but it will help you get a better picture of what exactly you are buying.
That is why in this article we will explain the 5 essential parts of every wine label and what each of them means to help you purchase wine like a real wine connoisseur. This article is just a small step towards gaining knowledge about the fascinating world of wine. If you wish to learn more as well as broaden your palate, you can also look into the best wine clubs to join. So, let’s start the first lesson.
Producer and Name
The wine producer is the brand of the wine bottle you are purchasing. This is by far one of the most prominent parts of a wine label. The name of the producer tells you who actually makes the wine.
If there is not a brand name on the label, the bottler’s name is considered the brand. The producer name usually is either obvious or in small text at the top or the bottom of the label. There are 8 different types of wine producers.
Estate producers that make the wine exclusively from their own vineyards. They have complete control over their whole process of production, they control quality and market the wines and sell them directly. These types of wine have a capsule where you can see the letter R meaning récoltant, so they can be easy to spot when shopping.
Producers called growers only produce grapes in their vineyards and then they sell them to winemakers. Grower producers produce wine from their own grapes and then sell it to a merchant that will mature, bottle, market, and sell it to customers.
On the other hand, merchants or négociants buy grapes from growers and transform them into wine. They mature, bottle, market, and sell the wine under their own name.
Co-operatives are a group of growers who produce their own grapes and then make and sell their wines under the co-op’s name. Custom crush facilities grow their own grapes, then hand them over to a winemaker’s facility. The facility makes the wine according to the grower’s requirements.
Virtual winemakers buy grapes and rent custom crush facilities to make their wine. Conglomerates are the largest wine companies on the market that own the largest wine brands. Having the producer’s name on the label can give you a lot of information about the cost, quality, and brand popularity of the producer.
The region from where the wine originates can have an enormous impact on the way the wine tastes. The particular region’s climate, soils, and aspect of the place where the grapes are grown and how they are able to ripen determines so much about the character of the final product.
Wine grapes from warmer climates generate higher sugar, whereas cooler climate wine grapes generally have lower sugar levels and retain more acidity. The hundred different types of soil, rock, and mineral deposits also affect the flavor of the wine.
Even the winemaking methods tend to highly depend on the region’s climate, soil, and terrain. Wines from larger regions typically are value wines whereas a wine from a specific vineyard site often indicates a higher quality regional designation.
If the wine origins from a specific vineyard site, that site is located right below the region. The source of the specific site can make the quality levels become more refined, and increase the prices.
Variety and Appellation
The term wine variety refers to the different types of grape or grapes that are used in the wine-making process. The most common grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Barbera, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot.
If the wine is made from one grape variety it is called Varietal. A great example is the Napa Cabernet which is a varietal wine. If the wine label does not reveal the constituent grapes or the percentage of them in the wine.
The wine appellation can give you clues on what varietals were used based on the rules of that particular region. Each nation has officially regulated appellations and strict rules that can tell you a lot about the content of the wine.
Here’s a short video to explain more about wine appellation:
Vintage and Non-Vintage wines
The term vintage wine refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. If the wine is vintage this year has to be displayed on the label of the wine. The climatic conditions and the weather throughout the growing season can affect the taste and quality.
This is why there are some years better than others. On the other hand, non-vintage wines are made by blending multiple years together. This is why non-vintages are more consistent and are a good value. Sunshine is what defines a good and a bad vintage.
The sun gives the grapes the best chance to reach full maturity and an optimum ripeness level. If the year was cold and rainy the grapes will not fully ripen and will be more prone to rot and disease, delivering lower-quality grapes. However, if the region’s climate was too hot the grapes will be raisinated before they fully ripen and the wines will be flabby or have bitter tannins. Here’s a bit more about the differences between Vintage and Non-Vintage wines.
Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
The alcohol level of the wine can say a lot about the wine. Old World European wine regions only allow their highest quality wines to have 13.5% ABV or above.
However, the New World wines especially the ones made in State can have quite a higher ABV up to 17%. The alcohol level can be an indication of how rich the wine may taste. Many higher alcohol wines are made from ripe grapes so they tend to have more fruit-forward flavors.
Now that you have the right tools you can look for the best wine deals. However, if you want to further improve your wine knowledge the easiest way to do it is by joining a wine club. Wine clubs today offer great deals for beginners. Not only do they send wines with extensive information about them but today they also organize classes, wine tastings, and wine trips where you can learn everything you need to know about wine from wine experts.
Want to go on a wine tour in New York? Here are a few Wine Tours in Upstate NY worth your time.
Emma Wrayne Rudy is a food connoisseur ready to indulge in every chance she gets to explore the beauty of New York City’s endless food scene. Emma’s writing style focuses on local hidden gems, food carts, food trucks, ma and pa joints, and eats that are affordable for everyone to try. With the diverse culture New York offers, she wants to emphasize on the foods that are less talked about and create a story behind each one. Growing up in Los Angeles at the age of seventeen Emma’s curiosity for food started as she went to every restaurant she could and wrote reviews on her experience, the ambiance, and her meals. Moving to New York a year ago she is ready to take on the immense food culture New York City has to offer, and continues to dedicate her days to writing as much as she can to pursue her dream as a food writer and storyteller.