Getting Started out with Wine: Teaching You to Read Imported Wine Labels

Because wine labels are usually in foreign languages, people always complain that they don’t know what it says on the label, which is a big problem in case they buy one they don’t like! If you know most of the world’s wine regions, wineries and grape varieties, reading wine labels is not a big problem. What about for those wine beginners? I’m afraid you won’t be able to learn so much in a short time. Today, the purpose of this article will be to teach wine lovers how to read wine labels for the first time.

wset level 1

1. What’s on the label?

According into the different naming methods of wine, wine labels can be divided into two categories: 1 is named after the Brand, and the other is named after the origin (e.g. AOC and VDQS in France, DOC and DOCG in Italy, QbA and QmP in Germany, etc.). Wines named by brand will have the grape variety on the label, while wines named by origin will have the origin rating on the label to indicate the quality of the wine.

Usually, the 5 basic components of a wine label include Producer/Chateau/Domaine, Region, Variety/Appellation, Vintage/NV, and Alcohol by Volume (ABV).

2. What do you look for when reading a wine label?

Perhaps the first thing we look for when we see a bottle of wine is its name. But if it’s not a world-famous brand and the name of the wine has nothing to do with the vineyard, winery or anything else, then you won’t get any information from the name of the wine. For example, with Sine Qua Non’s “Just for the Love of It” and “Poker Face” wines, you can get a lot of information from the names of these wines. Can you tell us anything about the producer, appellation and grape variety from these two names?

(1) Vintage

The vintage may be the year in which the grapes were harvested for the wine. Familiarizing yourself with the different vintages will help you learn additional about the wine. The best vintages in Bordeaux, France, are 1900, 1921, 1947, 1961, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2009. On the whole, non-vintage wines (NV) are not of high quality because they are mostly blends of several vintages in an attempt to enhance the flavor of the wine. The vintage of a wine is usually also the age of the bottle. Sometimes the vintage is written on the front or back label, and sometimes there is a separate label on the neck of the wine to indicate the vintage.

(2) Appellation

Appellation information indicates the region in which the grapes were made. Whether it is an Old World region (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and other old European wine producing countries) or a New World region (the United States, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, and other wine producing countries that have emerged in the last two to three centuries), the more specific the appellation information on the label indicates the higher the quality of the wine and, of course, the higher the price of the wine. Many wines will have the appellation written on the front or back label of the bottle. For example, wines from California in the United States will typically have the name Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Sonoma or other California appellations on the label. If you don’t know much about the various wine regions and sub-appellations in the world, look for “Appellation d’origine contr?l?§|e” (AOC), “Denominazione di These are the words that indicate the appellation, and usually the line above these words will be the appellation of the bottle.

Some wines are also labeled with the vineyard of the grapes selected. This indicates that all the grapes used to make the wine came from the same vineyard. If the vineyard is labeled, it means that the grapes from the vineyard are distinctive and the wine is of high quality.

(3) Producer (winery, estate)

This information tells you the origin of the wine, and is usually prominently displayed on the label in some New World regions such as the United States, and in some Old World regions in Europe, often in a small paragraph at the top or bottom of the label (except in Bordeaux, France, where the winery or estate and its sub-appellation are the main focus of the label).

(4) Grape variety or origin

This information indicates the grape variety used to make the wine. In California, Oregon, Alsace, Germany, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, etc., the grape variety is usually indicated; in Europe, most wines are not labeled with the variety, but with the appellation. Also, blended wines are not labeled with all the blended varieties and their percentage content. If there is no varietal label, then look at the origin of the wine, as the wine grape variety is determined by the nomenclature of origin. There are now 15 countries around the world that have legal appellation of origin laws, but the degree of enforcement and specific measures vary. These government-approved appellation of origin wines are generally of higher quality and greater character.

(5) Alcohol content

The alcohol content in fact contains a lot of information, such as the grade of the wine and the style of the wine. For example, in Old World regions, wines with 13.5% alcohol or higher are generally of higher quality, while New World wines such as those from the United States have a high alcohol content and are generally made from extra mature grapes, which are usually far more fruity but less flavorful.

3. Wine labels of different countries

Because different countries have different words and traditions, it is difficult to make a generalization. The following are the key points to teach you to read and understand different wine labels of different countries.

France: Look for the words “Appellation ……Controlee”, which is the word for the wine region, and the text at the ellipsis could be the name of the region. You may be confused about the vineyards and sub-appellations on some wine labels, so learn a little about the French vineyard appellations as appropriate.

Spain: Spanish wines are also labeled with the appellation, so look for the words “Denominacion …… Calificada” (DOC) on the front or back label.

Italy: As with France and Spain, look for “Denominazione ……Controllata” on the wine label.

Australia and California: Australian and California wines are simple and straightforward, with the wine region and grape variety directly on the label. If the name of the wine is not significant (i.e., the name of the wine has nothing to do with the appellation or grape variety), the wine’s composition and place of production are also stated on the back label of the bottle.

Related Links



What certificates can I get to work in the wine sector?