Key Information To Look Out For When Reading A Wine Label
Oct 16, 2023
Wine labels can be full of intimidating jargon, especially if you are not familiar with the country of origin. However it is not difficult to interpret them once you know some standard terms. Whether you are buying Swiss wine, a British brand or anything in between, here’s what to look out for.
Key information that should be displayed on all wine labels includes the following: the producer or brand of the wine; the country of origin; the grape variety; and the vintage (i.e the year the grapes were harvested).
Producer of the wine
If the wine is produced by a famous brand such as Hardy’s, this will usually be displayed most prominently on the label. However, if it is produced by a smaller winemaker, the region or grape variety might take precedence over the name of the winery.
The grape variety is a key indicator of how the wine will taste and how sweet or acidic it will be. Popular red varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and popular white varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.
Bear in mind that the same grape varieties grown in different regions will not taste the same due to differences in soil and climate. Sometimes wine can be made up of a blend of several different grape varieties or grapes from different vineyards.
The label should tell you the country of origin, and also the region in which it was produced. If it is from a particularly prestigious region such as Rioja in Spain or Bordeaux in France, this information will usually be in a larger and eye-catching font in the upper portion of the label. The region can have a strong influence on the style and flavour of the wine.
It can be tempting to go for a well established region, but it’s worth exploring some more offbeat terroirs to discover some hidden gems.
The vintage year means the year in which the grapes used to make the wine were harvested. This can be an indication of the quality of the wine, and also when the optimum time to drink it will be. This is more of an issue for more expensive wines, because the more labour intensive methods of production can mean that they age well, gaining in maturity and flavour. However, everyday wines are usually fine to drink with a recent vintage, and the quality of the harvest can vary from year to year due to the weather conditions.
Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
The ABV refers to the level of alcohol in the wine. This will usually be between 12% and 14% for a good quality wine. However lighter wines with a lower alcoholic content or even no alcohol are also available.