Sometimes looking at a wine label, especially one from Europe, can be like trying to understand a foreign language — in many cases, literally.
But if you know what to look for on a label, you can learn a lot about the wine inside the bottle.
Among the important pieces of information you can glean from studying a label are:
* The winery that made the wine.
* The region in which the grapes used to make the wine were grown.
* What year those grapes were grown and harvested.
* The variety or varieties of the grapes.
Federal law also requires that the alcohol level be listed, along with other specific information (generally appearing in fine print) regarding where the wine was bottled and, if it’s a non-domestic wine, what company imported it.
All of this information can help you make an informed buying decision if you happen to be in need of a bottle and your supply of Vinesse-selected wines has been depleted.
Let’s look at each piece of label information and see how it can help you learn more about the wine…
* The winery that made the wine — Reputation is a big deal in the wine world. Chances are pretty good that if you’ve heard of a winery, it’s because they make good wine. (This rule applies primarily to wines with a retail price of $15 or higher.)
* The region in which the grapes used to make the wine were grown — Napa. Sonoma. Tuscany. Bordeaux. Burgundy. While those geographic designations on a label may not provide a guarantee of quality, it’s better to select a wine from a region you know than one you don’t. (You can leave those lesser-known regions to the Vinesse tasting panel to sort out and identify the wine gems.)
* What year those grapes were grown and harvested — Sometimes older bottles get pushed to the back on supermarket shelves or buried in bins. In the case of some red wines, that can be a good thing. In the case of many white wines, it may not be. As a general rule, avoid buying older bottles at a grocery store.
* The variety of the grapes — When you can match the right variety to the right region, you have a better chance of procuring a decent bottle of wine. Examples: Pinot Noir from almost anywhere in Sonoma County… Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley… Zinfandel from Paso Robles or Lodi. It’s not a fool-proof method, but it works more often than it doesn’t in helping one buy a good bottle of wine when one doesn’t know the producer.
That’s just some of the information you can glean from a wine label. And there may be more on the way. There’s an effort afoot to include nutritional information on wine labels. I’m not quite sure where a winery would include that extra verbiage on a relatively small piece of paper, but it could be a requirement one day.