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How to Read a Wine Label

August 17, 2016

There’s a good chance that many of us have picked up a wine bottle on the store shelf because we’ve been attracted to its fabulous product label, but didn’t necessarily understand what the label meant. Wine labels may sometimes use words that the average person isn’t familiar with. Even customized wine labels may leave us scratching our heads, wondering what we’re actually reading. After reading this, you’ll be able to read and understand many wine bottles you come across!

Notice the Brand Name

When you pick up a wine bottle, the easiest thing to read and understand is the brand name. The brand name can usually be found at the very top of the product label. Next, you’ll probably notice the type of wine written on the bottle. The type of wine will be labeled by its grape name, or perhaps something like Moscato or Chardonnay. It may even say something like red wine or pink sparkling wine. You can usually find the type of wine written toward the middle or bottom of the bottle.

The Year

Many customized wine labels will include a year on the bottle of wine. This date is for the year that the majority of the grapes were harvested. Federal regulations allow companies to use up to 15 percent of grapes from a year other than the year listed on the front of the bottle.

Where Was the Wine Made?

If a wine bottle lists that it was estate bottled, this means that the wine was made on the same property. This would mean that the grapes were grown, crushed, fermented, and bottled on the same property.

Special Designation or Vineyard Designation

Both the special designation and vineyard designation are optional on a product label, but you’ve probably seen them listed at some point. The special designation will be listed if the wine possesses a unique quality, such as sweetness.

The vineyard designation lists the name of the vineyard that the grapes were grown on. To list the name of the vineyard on the bottle, at least 95 percent of the grapes must have been grown on that specific vineyard. The bottle may also include regional information about where the grapes came from, such as Napa Valley.

Know the Alcohol Content

It is mandatory that each wine label includes the bottle’s alcohol content. If the wine contains less than 14 percent alcohol by volume, the label may simply say table wine rather than list the exact percentage of alcohol used.

5 Things to Remember

To make the most educated guess before purchasing a new bottle of wine, knowing how to read a customized wine label will come in handy. While you won’t know for sure how the wine tastes, you will be more likely to purchase a bottle of wine that you’ll enjoy! Pay attention to the brand name, the location in which the grapes were sourced, the type of grape or type of wine, the year that the grapes were harvested, and the alcohol level in the bottle of wine. 

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