Reading the Wine Label

Reading the Wine Label—what you see is what you get!

How do I read a wine label? Is basically simple: The more on the label, the more you will know about the wine. Conversely, the less said, not always the better. There are two labels.

The Front Label:

  1. Who made it: the name of the winery, or the trade name.
  2. Where is it from: Sonoma, Napa, Central Coast, United States, somewhere in France.
    1. A.Special Where: Is there an appellation like: Alexander Valley, or Russian River, or Knights Valley.
    2. Special There Where: Is there a Vineyard Designation, like: Sky Pine Vineyards, or Al’s Really Big Block.
  3. What is it: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Red Table Wine.A.Special What: Is it a blend, like a Meritage, or a vintners field blend.
  4. When was it made, (when the grapes were picked and fermented) the vintage: 2005, 2006, etc.
  5. Why: often that’s the real questions after you taste it.
  6. How: Estate Bottled; produced, packed, vinted and bottled by ??, bottled and cellared at???, etc.

The Back Label:

  1. The Story: look for the low down on the winery and why they are special, and how this wine is different from all the others.
  2. The Grapes: the profile of the grapes when they were picked, the brix, acids and other notable features.
  3. The Tasting Notes: How is the wine’s flavor described? Like: “hint of raspberry with a naughty dash of dark chocolate.” (Come on really, is this wine or a candy store?)
  4. The Booze: “Alcohol 16.8% by Vol.”(Hot) or “Alcohol 12.28% by vol.”(Cool)
  5. The WARNING: Don’t drink and operate machinery, and or attempt to become pregnant. (a slight paraphrase)
  6. The Disclosure: “Contains Sulfites” Oh, how awful! Ever eaten an egg?

So now that you are educated on reading wine labels, start practicing your skills. Go to Safeway, and read all the 2,500 bottles on the shelves.