Wine labels: what to know
How many times have you heard someone say, “I choose my wine by the label”? How many times have YOU said it? Who could blame us when so many wine labels are genuine pieces of art. I mean, who could resist the smug smirk of our Swanky Devil? But there is some useful information on each wine label that can help you make your wine selection based on beauty AND brains.
Brand Name / Producer
That’s US! Potter Wines. On each of our labels you will find our name. Same goes for all bottles: Penfolds, Yellow Tail, Columbia Crest, etc.
Wine Name and / or Grape Variety
This includes the type of wine it is. Including the commonly known varieties like Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, as well as some more specialty types like Arneis, Gamay, or Gewürztraminer. This title indicates what types of grapes were used, and sometimes even what region the wine was produced.
Sometimes the grape variety isn’t stated on the label, and you may see the region instead. You may see a broad region like “West Australia”, down to a specific vineyard. Generally speaking, the more specific information you can glean from the label about where the grapes come from, the better quality the wine.
The vintage refers to the year when the grapes were harvested. If you are privy to good years, then this bit of information can be useful. You may also see a “NV” or “non-vintage”, and this indicates that grapes from multiple vintages were used. Also of note, non-vintage varieties are meant to be drank on release, and will not tend to improve with age, hence costing less than a good vintage.
Premium French wine may have a traditional classification. These are wine body-approved marks of quality that refer to the region the wine comes from. They can include marks like “A” – Premier Grand Cru Class, or “Premier Cru” from Burgundy.
Alcohol level, or the “ABV” is almost always on the back, but can also be displayed on the front. Some regions of wine have specific alcohol levels to be considered high quality. For example, several regions in Europe only allow the highest quality of wines to have an ABV of 13.5%. Occsaionally a higher ABV may indicate a wine made from riper grapes, which will produce a fruitier flavor.
Now that you’ve got the basic breakdown of how to read a wine label, you can say “I choose my wine by the label” with a snarky confidence, that is sure to be a big hit at your next holiday party!