Wine 201 – How to read a Wine Label

I’ve been giving this post a lot of thought, as it can be rather tricky.

I know, I know… I can hear you saying out loud, “What? How can reading wine labels be tricky? “

Well, it’s only tricky if you do not know what you are looking for. But you can learn a fair amount of a wine just by learning how to read a label. For example, you can learn how to pick up a higher quality wine, just by looking for a few specific words. Here’s a nice piece on what your wine choice tells about your personality

The problem, as far as I’ve been able to discern, is that different countries…heck, even different areas of a single country….have different rules, guidelines and laws that determine what is or is not in a bottle of wine. To complicate matters, sometimes these rules, guidelines and laws are made by governments, other times they are made by a consortium of vineyards. One can approach reading a German Wine bottle differently than one reads a French wine bottle. In fact, you can get dozens of different hits on Google when you type in “How to read a German Wine Label” versus “How to read a French Wine Label“.

I don’t think it’s necessary to get that specific (and nor do I want to write separate posts on each country’s wine), so I’ve devised a simple, straightforward way to look at wine labels that most of us already are familiar.

There’s a list of simple questions that journalists strive to answer in any article. We can apply the same questions to Wine Labels. Those questions?

Who?

What?

Where?

When?

How?

A couple of notes here…I’ve excluded the “Why?” question because the only person who can honestly tell you why a wine is made is the owner of the vineyard. Some folks do put mission statements that may give you an insight as to why they made the wine, but our goal here is to use clues to find good wine. Most wine blurbs will upsell the wine, regardless of wine quality. 

Want a bonus? Here you go: a Complete Guide to NZ Wines.