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How to read a Wine Label?

So, you’re in the wine store and you want to buy something new. You have nothing to go by besides the label. Will the label tell you everything you need to know? Well, there are a million caveats and exceptions, but here are 7 things you need to look out for:

Country / Region: The region mentions the specific location that the wine is from in a particular country. Some regions are especially known for some styles of wine or grape varietals. Hence, it’s important to read the region to pick a good wine.

Grape Varietal: Not all wine labels state the grape varieties, especially Old World wines i.e. from France, Italy, Spain, Germany. Whereas all New World wines clearly mention the grape varietal(s) in the wine. It is important to note the grape varietal(s) as that should help you understand the flavour profile of the wine and make a selection.

Producer: This is the name of the vineyard where this wine is produced. Producers are identifiable differently from different countries. French wines usually start with “chateau”, Italian wines with “Domaine” or the name of the wine maker. New world wines state the producer’s name clearly, right on top.

Vintage: This is the year mentioned on the label and is the year that the grapes were harvested in. This information is important as certain vintages in wine regions are better than the other vintages. The vast majority of wines at the store are meant to be drunk right away, so you want to make sure the wine isn’t too old, particularly if you’re buying it expecting lively, fresh fruitiness.

Brand: This is different from the producer name as vineyards could have different brands in their portfolio depending on grape varietals, estates, pricing, etc. This is usually stated post the producer name and could or could not be more prominently displayed as compared to the producer name.

Tasting Notes: Mentioned on the back label, this gives you the bouquet (smell), palate (taste) and food pairings for the wine. If you are a novice, this is the best place from which to understand the flavours of the wine and what kind of food to pair it with.

AOC / DOCG / DOC / DO: These are specific communes or villages within a region that are known for their particular styles, grapes or types of wines. Wines of a particular AOC or similar must follow its rules and produce wines of quality to be able to qualify for the AOC. Only then can they put the AOC name on the label.