The Anatomy of a Wine Label

2_shot4Not your typical bones and muscles anatomy, but more your dissecting your favourite bottle of wine anatomy!

This dissection will help you, as it did me, to understand what you’re drinking when buying and serving wine. I consider this the base of my wine learning.

Some labels tend to ramble on and on about the wine taste and all the information possible about the winery, which is actually beneficial to us as consumers and any distributers looking to go directly to the source. But, you also have labels that give you next to nothing and just meet the bare minimum requirements. For example a bottle of ‘Mâcon-Lugny’ from Burgundy in France says simply that on the bottle, but did we obviously see that it’s a Chardonnay? Nope! France is a little stuck up with their wines and expect you to know that that indeed is the grape you’re buying based on the location of the winery.

Things that are mandatory on the label:

  1. The brand name: this can be a made up company name, or the name of the vineyard itself
  2. Indication of the type of wine (ex: table wine (red or white), sparkling, or dessert)
  3. Name and location of the bottler
  4. Net contents (expressed in mL)
  5. The phrase contains sulfites (sulfites are preservatives in a wine and need to be mentioned, even though its in parts per million (PPM))
  6. The government warning (wine safety)

What do the words below mean?

  1. PDO (Protection Designation of Origin): well, in European countries, the PDO is to protect and promote the names of these quality products. Below, since there is only one European country represented (France), you’re only going to see ‘AOP‘ (which is still a PDO, but in French), which stands for ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée‘. Other European countries have different abbreviations, but they all mean the same thing.
  2. Viticultural Area: the geographic zone or region in which the wine came from (ex: Loire Valley)
  3. Quality Designation: the bottle’s way of telling you this is different from the original wine of this kind (not necessarily better, although some reserves can be more of finer taste). (Ex: reserve)
  4. Wine name: this is the grape your drinking! If you want to stick to an easier name that you might know, maybe steer clear of the French section (like I stated above, often times, they don’t even include the name of the grape, they just include the name of the Château and expect you to know the grape based on the area).
  5. Bottler/Producer Information: although required, full details are not always given. Ideally, this is the area that states the producer’s name and even, address, but often times is just a vague idea that it was the winery that bottled and produced this product.

Below are some different types of labels (some from France, some one from Australia, and one from California) that are dissected and labelled. I hope this shines a little light for you in the liquor store!

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