How to pick a wine from looking and reading a label

How to pick a wine from looking and reading a label

A good wine, is like a good book

A good wine doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to hide behind a flashy label. A good wine, is like a good book, it is the product of someone who loves what they do, who has tenderly crafted a beautiful final product, and who enjoys the heartache and joy of the entire creative process. Simply taking the time to read a good wine label will help you to avoid the perils of a cute label that is the creation of a graphic designer and doesn’t reflect a good final product.

What To Look For On The Label

red wine labelWhen you read a wine label it is easy to become lost in the graphics. Instead, you should focus on a few vital pieces of information: the country, region, types of grapes, shippers, vintage year, producers, and the quality level of the wine. The wine’s vintage will refer to the year that the grapes were harvested. If you are familiar with vintage variations, then you will be able to choose a bottle of wine based off of this distinction. However, if you are not familiar with vintages, then you should move on to the variety of the wine.

The term “variety” refers to the type of grape (or grapes) used in the making of the wine. Once you are acquainted with various varieties of wine, you will be able to choose a type of wine that suits your palette. Remember, each variety of wine will have certain buzzwords on the label. For example, full-body, sweet tannins, fruity, and smooth finish are all common terms used to describe a Merlot.

For anyone who doesn’t want to know the varietal differences between a Merlot and Malbec, then you can look for the term estate grown or estate bottled. These labels refer to wines that have been grown, produced, and bottled at a wine estate. A little research into the estate will help you to better determine if the wine comes from a vineyard that is known for certain types of wine. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to work your way backwards from estate name to variety to vintage to choosing the perfect bottle of wine.

Putting Your Knowledge To The Test: Comparing Two Wine Bottle Labels

To avoid the pitfalls of a cutesy wine label, let’s put your newly found knowledge to the test. Layer Cake Sauvignon Blanc is known for having a cute image of a cake on the front label. In script the phrase “One Hundred Percent Hand Crafted” is written. This should be an immediate red flag, good wine doesn’t need to tout the fact that it was hand-crafted. Upon further inspection you will find a quote that states wine should be filled with “fruit, mocha and chocolate, hints of spice and rich.” Remember, this is a Sauvignon Blanc; based on its variety it should taste of fruit, but never of chocolate or mocha. The final red flag comes from the fact that the wine was bottled by “One True Vine.” Nowhere on the bottle is the label estate grown or estate bottled. This means that the wine could be made from grapes of different vineyards or vintages in a haphazard manner.

Compared to the Layer Cake label, a bottle from Josef Bauer takes an entirely different approach. It can be purchased at the same price point, but it does away with cute labels and instead encourages purchasers to read the back label. His wine labels clearly state that the wine is estate grown and bottle, its vintage, that it comes from Grossriedenthal, and the region (Wagram). Without any fanfare it provides you with all of the information that you need to know to determine that it is in fact a more enjoyable bottle of wine than the aforementioned Layer Cake Sauvignon Blanc.


The moral of the story is clear — avoid falling for marketing gimmicks when you read a wine label. Instead, remember to go back to the basics and identify the country, region, maker, vintage, variety, and if the bottle is estate grown. These key pieces of information will help you to avoid unsavory bottles of wine with flashy labels, and instead enjoy a good bottle of wine that was lovingly crafted from start to finish.

By: Uncorked Monthly

Uncorked Monthly

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