Have you ever held a bottle and come across some particulars that you are unable to deduce? Well, a wine label is bound to baffle up your visit to the store. But worry not, you’re not alone. Some of the information on that label is crucial to know while some of it is just there to uphold the distinctiveness. Every winery follows a different track when it comes to their labels. Some like to keep it uncomplicated and straightforward, while the others go a step or two further.
- The Region / Appellation –
Region specifies the geographical area from where the grapes were initially harvested. It can include a wide topography or even a particular vineyard. Knowing the regions will ultimately help you distinguish the quality of the wine, based on your preference. The wines coming in from a specific vineyard are considered more supreme when compared to the ones denoted by a wide-ranging zone, as the specificities and minor details play a vital role in wine making and costing.
2. The Grape Variety –
Many European regions traditionally do not mention the grape name on the bottle. This is because a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux region of France won’t taste the same as the one coming in from Piedmont, Italy. Although remembering your favourite grape name and going after it in the store is the easiest hack, the taste difference might just have you doubt your own palate. Some wines do have a specific grape mentioned, and the use of that grape must be done up to the minimum set limit. For instance the Chianti wines must contain at least 70% of Sangiovese grape to be called so. At times, a bottle can even have two or more grape varieties mentioned, which indicates that it is a blended wine.
3. The Producer / Brand –
It is often an individual or an organisation that takes up the responsibility to execute the wine making process and manoeuvre a fine product. A producer may be a family, a business or an individual wine enthusiast. Their name is mainly highlighted on the label, and can be in large or small text. Each producer aims to give some sort of uniqueness to his or her variety.
4. Vintage or Non Vintage? –
The first thing many of us look out for when we hold a bottle are the numbers which combine to make a year. But do we actually know what that year tells us? ‘KoIt’ is known as the Vintage year, the year when the grapes for that particular wine were harvested. Knowing your vintage can play a vital role on the overall quality of your buy. A good harvest season would give out a perfect smack on your palate when compared to one where the climate or the allied factors were not in favour. If you come across some bottles without a year mentioned, they are made by blending harvests of different years.
5. Alcohol Content (ABV%) –
The alcohol by volume number on your wine marks the percentage amount of ethyl alcohol in your bottle. Remember, this is different from proof. Alcohol proof is twice the percent ABV and different measure and is not used for wine labelling. Mentioning the alcohol content by volume is mandatory for any wine with an ABV of 14% or greater. More the alcoholic content, drier is the wine, and the lesser the alcoholic content, the sweeter your beverage is.
6. Ageing –
Most wine brands do not indicate the ageing of the wine on the label, but certain wines, specially the ones from Spain, definitely have one out of these four terms mentioned on the wine label :
- Vino joven – Aged for under 15 months, no oak ageing.
- Crianza – 2 years of ageing (Including 6 months in cask).
- Reserva – 3 years of ageing (Including 1 year in cask).
- Gran Reserva – 5 years of ageing (Including 2 years in cask) .
These terms are now used by many wine makers across the globe.
To put all myths at rest – aging changes how the wine tastes, but does not necessarily improve or worsen it. ‘Good wine’ is subjective and the same person may like aged wine from one brand, and dislike aged wine from another.
7. Flavouring notes –
Most wine houses and makers want the consumers to know their wine in depth, therefore they make it a point to mention the flavouring notes on the bottle itself. They can be on the back side or on rare occasions on the front. Knowing the flavours can help amateurs practice the art of tasting in a delicate manner. Flavours can range from blackcurrant and plum to as distinct as coffee, coconut, black pepper and even walnuts.
8. The Sulfite declaration –
Sulfites are compounds that occur either naturally in fermented grape juice or are added in the form of sulphur dioxide, which is a universal preservative . They help the wine last by reducing the risk of bacterial infections and oxidation. The bottles which possess a sulfite level of more than 10 parts per million, have to mandatorily give out a warning on the label so individuals with sulfite allergies can keep away.
The appearance of the label does not always do justice to whats inside that bottle. It is important to understand the label but at the end of the day, just have fun with different wines till you find the right one for your palate!