Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Wine 201 – How to read a Wine Label

So let’s deal with each question one at a time. First, let’s touch upon the questions which are universal:

Who made the wine? The company or firm that made the wine or, in some cases, the wine’s trademark name. Pretty straightforward. Sometimes it’s the name of the family or company that makes the wine, sometimes it’s the name of the winery. The answer to this question is pretty straightforward.

However, it should be noted that who made the wine weren’t the same people who grew the grapes used in the wine. The family/company most likely purchased the grapes from an outsourced vineyard. On the opposite end of the spectrum you have “Estate Wineries“, who are wineries who happen to grow their own grapes. So if you see “Estate Wineries” or even “Estate Bottled”, you know that the winery/company had more input on how the grapes were grow.

When were the wine grapes harvested? This would be the vintage of the wine, the year in which the grapes were harvested for the wine. Thus a 2003 riesling means that the grapes for the riesling were harvested in 2003.

The vintage does not necessarily mean when the wine was made, but many countries have laws stating that a certain percentage of a wine must have been fermented in the same year the grapes were harvested. In the US, if a bottle has a vintage of 2003, you can be assured that 95% of the wine had been fermented in the same year the grapes were harvested. In Australia and most of the European Union countries, the minimum to qualify for vintage dating is only 85%, but some local appellations require a higher percentage. Bordeaux, for example, requires 95%. Other wine-producing countries, including Chile and South Africa, require that only 75%, but that doesn’t mean all wines go that low.

Moving on to the next question and answer in the next post. Do not miss it!