You’re going back and forth between a few choice bottles of wine. You don’t know which to get. After a certain point, your mind wanders and you start mixing up the details, the narratives, the flavors. Everyone who’s not a wine expert has been there. It’s important to know how to read a wine label. Wine label information can quickly tell you details about the wine that often get passed over in the more flowery descriptions. There are seven distinct details to find:
Let’s start with the most basic part of choosing a wine. The variety is the type of grape used. A Merlot is made from Merlot grapes, for instance. Not all grapes will have the same name as the type of wine, but they will be listed somewhere on the label. Blends should also list the percentage of each wine that features in the blend.
The name on the wine is its producer. The quickest route to finding wines you like is to remember their names. Most people know this, but what they don’t do is look up that producer. It’s worth it to call up their website on your phone and learn a little more about what they value and the tastes they pursue.
3. Region of Origin
Wine labels usually feature their country of origin and the region the grapes were grown on the label. As you get used to your favorite types of wine, you’ll begin to recognize distinct differences between them. This is because each region receives particular weather patterns and features distinct soils. You’ll begin to find you favor particular regions for different types of wine.
Now we’re getting fancy. Vintage is the year the wine was produced. It will usually be on the front label, but if you can’t see it there take a look at the other labels. You may find you like wine from a particular name that was produced one year more than another. Stock up on the vintages you like best before it runs out.
5. Alcohol Content
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) is located on all alcoholic beverages in the U.S. This includes wine. Most are fairly predictable: red wine is about 13.5% ABV. A wine with a markedly higher ABV (say, more than 16%) can begin to point to a wine that’s a little more jammy or syrupy in flavor.
There’s a whole scale of sweetness that tells you the residual sugar level of the wine. Dryer wines have less sugar. Sweeter wines have more. You may discover you prefer wines that are drier or sweeter, or that your taste veers between the two depending on the type of wine. This helps you pick, and also helps those who are dieting or watching their sugar intake be aware of which wines they might prefer.
Producers are legally required to report whether sulfites were used in the production of the wine. Sulfites are simply one resource that is used in creating wine. They’re not a bad thing – they help reduce the risk of oxidation in the wine. There are people with sulfite allergies that need to be aware of how the wine was produced, however.
Now you know how to read a wine label! Remember to take a picture of the wine label information on wines you love. This way, you have it ready on your phone next time you’re ready to buy.