The Mystery of the Wine Label

Ah, the wine label.

Rarely has something so small in size caused so much confusion among consumers—wine lovers and occasional wine drinkers alike.

The label should be the “port of entry” for a potential purchaser. Instead, in so many cases over so many years, it has played the opposite role, thus truly “serving” neither the producer nor the consumer.

Regulations dealing with what and what may not be included on a wine label vary from country to country, and even though the European Union has been working toward some form of standardization, Europe is only one continent.

We will devote an entire post to this subject one day soon. But for today, let’s focus on just one aspect of the subject by answering a question that one of our blog followers sent in…

QUESTION: I’ve noticed that most wines from California are named after a grape, while most from France are named after a region. Why is this?

ANSWER: In a word: tradition.

French winemaking goes back centuries, and from the very beginning, it was common to blend a number of varieties into a single cuvee. This is known as a “field blend,” and it remains a common practice today not only in France, but throughout much of Europe.

The California wine industry, in contrast, is very young, and single-variety wines are common. That’s why you most often see the name of the winegrape prominently displayed on the label.

Here’s one way to think about it: In France, the emphasis is on “where.” In California, it’s on “what.”

Posted in Wine FAQ
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