How to Read a Wine Label

how to read a wine labelHow to Read a Wine Label

By Mark Adams

Mark is a professional winemaker, former winery owner, author and frequent speaker on wine.  He currently teaches wine classes throughout the United States.

How to Read a Wine Label is really not that hard, although wine labels can be very simple or very complicated, depending on the winery or country of origin. At first glance there seems to be quite a bit of information.

But it’s really pretty basic if you know what to look for. Let’s take a look at and American Wine Label.

1. Winery name. Don’t think I need to explain that one…

2. Alcohol Percentage Most wines will range from about 9-14%

3. Variety 75% of the wine must be made from that grape

4. Location Also called the appellation. Where the grapes were grown

5. Estate Bottled This means at least 95% of the grapes come from one vineyard

6. Vintage The year the grapes were harvested

7. Reserve This typically means the wine has been on oak for a period of time

8. Winemaker Select Not an official designation, but usually a blend of different wines

9. Back of the label. Usually some information from the winemaker that they feel is relevant. Maybe a history of the wine.

10. The Government label That’s the part that says you shouldn’t drive tractor while drunk and pregnant.

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Now lets compare the European Wine Label

1. Winery name. Usually will say Chateau de …. if French. Chateau means house in French. In other words, the winery name

2. Alcohol Percentage. Reads the same way as American.

3. Location Heres where things are very different. The US uses the grape name, in Europe they use the location where the grape was grown. Since they usually only plant on or two varieties in each region, you can usually determine what the variety is if you know your regions. We will touch on this at length in the USA vs European wine video

4. Vintage Same as above

5. Cru and Grand Cru

6. Back of Label. If you are looking at an imported bottle in the US, it has to have the same government warnings as US wines. If you are in Europe you will find the government label to be far less specific, even if they have one at all

Now that you know how to read a wine label go out and shop with confidence.  So next time you’re at the wine shop compare two bottles and see the differences.

Click these links if you’re interested in online wine classes or simply want to learn about wine