Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to read a wine bottle label

Ever get a bit confused by all of the wording on a wine bottle label and wonder what it all means? Here's a quick overview:

1. Winery name

2. Bottle capacity

3. Grape variety/wine name - wines are often named after the grape variety from which they are made. Sometimes, especially with blends, wines are given proprietary names - created, registered and solely used by the winery.

4. Vintage date - if a vintage date is on the label, 95 percent of the grapes must be from the stated vintage.

5. Grape-growing region/appellation - if a label says "Pennsylvania" or names a county, at least 75 percent of the wine grapes must be been grown there. If the label has an American Viticultural Area (A.V.A.) listed, then 85 percent of the wine must have come from that area.

6. Description of wine - descriptions that help identify a style - such as dry, semi-dry, barrel-fermented, oak-aged, and many others.

7. Alcohol content - alcohol content can vary from year to year. Federal standards allow 1.5 percent latitude either way, so many wineries give an average. Other labels may say "Table Wine," which merely means that the wine is between 7 and 14 percent alcohol; it is not an indication of the wine's quality.

8. Estate bottles - this wine is 100 percent from the stated area and is grown, made and bottled by the winery. 

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