Reading Wine Labels

Do you find it intimidating to read wine labels? I sure used to. It’s difficult to know what to look for, especially if you don’t really know what you like. Not gonna lie, when I first started drinking wine I sometimes chose the wine based on how pretty the label was or if it attracted my attention! (Hey, I actually found a great wine this way that led to me joining their wine club!) But most of the time it doesn’t work that way.

Fortunately there are some things listed on wine labels that are required by law, especially those imported into the U.S. Let’s take a look at a label:

The first thing you notice is HALL at the top of the label. This is the name of the company that produced the wine.

The North End is the brand name of this wine. Producers are free to name the wine whatever they want as long as doesn’t mislead the consumer. Sometimes wines are named for relatives, their location in the vineyard, something significant to the wine, etc.

2014 is the vintage, or the year the grapes were grown and made into wine. Weather conditions are never the same from year to year, so your favorite wine will change with each vintage. That explains why you may love it one year and think it’s just so-so another year.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the grape varietal used to make the wine. To put this designation on the label at least 75% of the grapes used to make the wine are of that varietal.

Napa Valley is the appellation or growing region of the grapes. Learning which appellations you like is extremely helpful in choosing a wine. Most appellations have rules about which grapes can be used and how the wine is made.

This particular label is straightforward and easy to read. Some labels are not. Let’s take a peek at another one:

As you can see there is absolutely no information at all on this wine label. Let’s check out the back:

There it is! In this case we can see the specs of this wine:

Producer: Herman Story

Brand Name: On the Road

Vintage: 2014

Varietal: Grenache

Appellation: California

Other things you may see on a wine label:

Sometimes you will see the alcohol content on the label. In this case it’s 16.1% This wine packs a punch! Most wines are 14 or 15%.

Sulfite Advisory: All wines imported into the U.S. must be treated with sulfites to serve as a preservative and a stabilizer.

Volume: You’ve probably noticed that wine bottles come in a variety of different shapes. The volume indicates how much wine is in the bottle. The standard bottle is 750 ml, or 3/4 of a liter, about 25 ounces.

I hope information gives you more confidence when reading a wine label. Cheers! 🍷


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