Depending on where the wine is from and on whose it is from, the wine label may be easy or tricky to read. Not all labels are laid out the same way. Some may inform where the grapes were grown, others where the wine was produced. Here are some tips to help you decipher the different kind of wine labels out there.
New World Wine Label
New World wine labels are straight forward, offering consumers key wine buying information. The varietal is listed on the label. The producer, varietal, vintage year, region where grapes are grown, and alcohol content typically appear on the front label. The back label sports the government warning, and the sulfite statement along with some witty wine wisdom and pairing preferences for the particular wine
Alsatian Wine Label
Alsatian wine labels tend to be easier on the New World consumer, as they are the one French wine region that habitually states the wine’s grape varietal directly on the front label. These labels are a good place to start easing into Old World label decoding, because they provide a “hybrid” of Old World and New World labeling strategies. The detective work is significantly reduced as consumers conquer the label offerings in record time, but easy label deciphering aside, the majority of Alsatian Rieslings need little help in convincing consumers to give them a go. Alsace has an international reputation for producing tip top Rieslings at consumer-friendly price points – this particular Lucien Albrecht Riesling is no exception.
French Wine Label: Burgundy
As an example lets discuss a label from Burgundy. In the right corner it will read: “Vin de Bourgogne,” meaning “Wine of Burgundy”. In Burgundy there are two wines to know: Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and White Burgundy (Chardonnay). This label represents a white wine from Burgundy, which we figure out from bottle and label clues. The bottle will have the sloped shoulder style that is typically found in white wines. Next, the appellation in Burgundy is Macon-Villages (known for white Burgundy wines, aka Chardonnay). The estate where the grapes are from is “Domaine Champ de Brulee.” The wine’s producer is Vincent and the bottling information is at the label’s bottom. So, we know this wine is a Chardonnay from Burgundy produced by JJ Vincent in 2003 with an alcohol content of 12.5%.
German Wine Label
The vast majority of German wines are Rieslings, and for good reason. Germany has been setting the traditional standard for the Riesling grape for centuries. The German wine label includes the basic information found on most other labels: producer, region, vintage, vineyard, varietal, and the like, but they throw a curve when the ripeness levels, sugar levels and quality classifications also grace the label. The quality classification starts off with the basic table wine, “Tafelwein” and proceeds to a level 5 designation of “Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat” (QmP) – translated to “Quality wine with attributes.”
Italian Wine Label
For those that don’t speak Italian, wine labels from Italy can be daunting, until you know a few essential label clues. The primary pieces of information that Italian wines want to communicate to you, their celebrated consumer, are the wine’s: Name, Growing Region (There are 37 designated wine growing regions in Italy), Grape Type (Italy has over 2,000!), Estate and Producer Names, Alcohol Content, Vintage Year and Classification (Vdt, IGT, DOC, DOCG – government appellation designations related to volume, location and quality). If you can grab these key pieces of information off of an Italian wine label then you are good to go.