The label on your bottle of wine contains so much more information that you might recognize at first glance. Each part of the label serves a purpose in terms of telling you where the wine has come from, what it contains and whether or not it meets the exacting standards of the DOC or any other regulatory boards to judge the quality or authenticity of wine.
Here we will be taking a look at wine labels in more detail, examining exactly what they have to tell us about the wine and how we can use them to make out choices in cases where we have never tried the wine before and want to choose something that we think will suit our palettes.
Brand or Appellation
The first thing that you will be looking for with your bottle of wine is to see whether it is known by a brand name or if the bottle chooses to make use of an appellation to show you where it comes from and the quality that it possesses.
Neither is necessarily better than the other, though an appellation, like DOCG, tends to indicate a level of quality that the bottle has strictly adhered to in order to receive the appellation in the first place. However, a branded bottle can also be exceptional, assuming that it is a brand that is known for the production of wines.
Another thing you will need to keep in mind is that a wine that is designated by its appellation will not always mention the grape that has been used in its production, at least not as prominently as a wine that has been branded in a different fashion. This can make it a little more difficult to select between them, unless you are already aware of the wine and the appellation it carries.
The Producer’s Name
How prominent the producer’s name is on the bottle is really going to depend on the producer themselves and, in some cases, the region where the wine has come from. French wines, for example, tend to feature the producer’s name in small text at the bottom of the label, instead allowing the label to advertise the wine itself rather than the people who made it.
Others will have the producer’s name front and centre of the bottle so that everybody can see it. This is often particularly the case for renowned producers, especially when they are introducing a brand new wine to their catalogue.
All you need to know is that the producer’s name tells you who made the wine, giving you something to research later on if you have a mind to. Furthermore, if there is no producer’s name, you may be drinking a branded wine.
Any Italian wine lover will tell you that the region that the wine comes from is perhaps one of the most important things about it. After all, different regions are known for different types of wines, with organisations like the DOC regulating where certain wines can be produced in order to receive their brand of certification.
As such, a good wine will generally take pride in its region of origin, down to the point where specific vineyards and villages are mentioned. A wine that simply states a large region without any further information is likely mass-produced, whereas one that makes sure to mention the winery, vineyard and any other information is often of a higher quality. Look for the region designation to be fairly prominent, with additional information about the region to be in smaller text nearby, if it is available at all. A good rule of thumb, though not always completely accurate, is that the closest you can narrow the wine’s source down to a specific site or vineyard, the higher its quality is going to be.
The grapes used to make the wine are something that is often important to a consumer, but not all labels will contain this information in its entirety. This is particularly the case for labels that make use of an appellation, rather than standard labelling, which may lead to you having to conduct a little more research before you can understand exactly what has gone into the wine.
Others will give you a more exact feel for what has been used to produce the wine, so it is still worth checking each bottle just to see if you can find this information. This will allow you to identify grapes that you can then search for in other wines if they have helped to create a wine that you particularly enjoyed.
Vintage or Non-Vintage
As a good rule of thumb, wines that make specific mention of their vintage, which is the year that the grapes were harvested, are going to be of a higher quality than wines that are classified as non-vintage. This is often shown on the label with an NV marking, whereas those that do belong to a specific vintage will usually have the year printed fairly prominently.
The vintage is something that you should look out for, particularly if you are buying a wine that you wish to age. Furthermore, certain years are better than others based on a range of different factors, such as the weather and the overall quality of the harvest, so if you understand which years produced high quality grapes you can use the vintage of the wine to locate something of a high quality.
Alcohol By Volume
Usually abbreviated to ABV, this part of the label simply tells you the volume of alcohol in the wine. This is actually much more useful than it would first appear, as another good rule of thumb is that a higher quality wine will often have a higher ABV, though again this is not always the case.
You will also find that many wines that receive a certain certification, like DOCG, must meet a minimum ABV before they can be sold, which again acts as an indicator of quality in addition to allowing you to spot wines that are perhaps not of the quality you would like.