With over seventy countries producing wine worldwide, in at least a half dozen different languages, it’s easy to see why reading a wine label can be challenging. Over 2,000 different wine grapes are used to make everything from bold red wines to delicately sweet dessert wines. How do you know what’s in that bottle?
That’s a great question. And although to fully understand wine labels, we would need to review every major wine country on earth; there are a few universal guidelines that will help you feel more comfortable walking the wine aisles. Here’s what you need to know.
Not All Labels Are Created Equal
European countries have long winemaking traditions, and for them, it’s never about the wine grape but about the place where the grapes are grown. This means you won’t find the grape variety anywhere on the label. This is particularly tricky and requires you to study a little.
With some practice, you’ll learn that red Burgundy is Pinot Noir, Bordeaux is a blend of Cabernet and Merlot, Ribera del Duero is Tempranillo, and Barolo is made with Nebbiolo. These are just a few examples of a thousand select regions in Europe and learning all about them is quite a challenge. A delicious one indeed!
New World Countries in America, South Africa and Australia, are varietal-oriented. Meaning winemakers will always print the grape in the label. That’s easier, right? What else can we learn about a bottle of wine through its label?
Wine Quality, It’s All About the Sense of Place
Wine labels also tell you about the wine’s provenance. A bottle labeled as a single country means the grapes come from anywhere, and that regularly means these are not very special grapes.
The finest vineyards are harvested and bottled alone, and that’s the famous single-vineyard wines. You really get a sense of place with each sip. Of course, some vineyards consistently yield better grapes, meaning some vineyards are better than others. The French terms Premier Cru or Grand Cru are examples of this.
Inexperienced wine tasters look for specific grapes. As you become more experienced, you start looking for places.
How to Read Wine Labels
Some other information on wine labels can be useful. You might find the wine’s sweetness level and alcohol by volume, too. You can see if the wine is old and past its prime or if it’s the newest vintage.
Every wine label displays the name of the producer. And that’s a big deal. For wine, reputation matters, so see if you find a producer you like. The most respected wine producers have quite large fan bases.
If you want to discover your own favorite wine producers in the Yarra Valley, then tour with us at Chauffeur Drive, Melbourne, Yarra Valley private winery tour experiences and visit the region’s most acclaimed wineries, wine makers and learn more about your favorite wines, call us on 1300 48 11 88 and we can’t wait to spoil you.