Trying to interpret all the terms and pieces of information on a wine label can be intimidating for beginners. But understanding what certain elements mean can help you make better, more informed wine selections. Here’s an overview of the typical components found on labels of both domestic and imported wines.
Required Label Information
Alcohol Percentage – Indicates the alcohol content by volume. Table wines typically range from 10-15%.
Size – Standard bottle sizes are 750mL and 1.5L. The size should be clearly displayed.
Winemaker – The name of the head winemaker or winemaking team.
Appellation – Where the grapes were grown. American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) indicate a designated wine-growing region.
Estate Bottled – Optional term meaning the winery grew all their own grapes.
Additional Wine Details
Grape Variety – The type(s) of grapes used to make the wine. Example: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Vintage Year – The year the grapes were harvested. Indicates the wine’s age.
Vineyard – The specific vineyard where the grapes were sourced.
Special Designations – Terms like “Reserve” or “Old Vines” indicate higher quality but have no legal definition.
Foreign Term Deciphering – European labels use terms like DOC, DOCG, IGT indicating quality and origin.
Interpreting Flavour Hints
Tasting Notes – Typically on back labels, these describe the wine’s aroma, flavours and texture.
Food Pairings – Suggested dishes that complement the wine’s flavour profile.
Ageing Potential – General guidance on how long the wine can age before drinking.
By understanding the required elements and commonly used terms on both domestic and imported wine labels, you’ll be better equipped to shop for and select wines you’ll enjoy. As the famous wine critic Robert Parker once said, “The enjoyment of wine requires only three things: a good wine, good food, and good company.” While the label can hint at the quality of the wine itself, never forget that wine is made to be shared and savoured with others. The best bottles make for unforgettable experiences when opened and passed around the table.
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