teacherHere is part 1 of 5 of our UNCORKING THE CODE series, easy and basic information on how to relish our wine.


I have posted some links about wine labels, (Timmy, thanks for your comment)… but here is the ABC. The wine label has two kinds of information: mandatory and optional. Mandatory is the information that is required by the law of the particular country or state as a minimum to identify the product. The rest of the information, such as the design on the label, awards, recommendations on what food the wine goes well with, is marketing “fluff” to make the wine more appealing.

Let’s take a look at the mandatory information. This varies according to country and region, so for the purposes of this basic ABC we’ll keep it general. As a minimum, the label must indicate:

Name and address of the bottler
Wine type (Chardonnay, Cabernet, etc) We’ll get into what these mean later.
Volume (how much wine is in that bottle)
Alcohol content (in degrees)
Some countries (like the US) also mandate a health warning, and others (like France) demand the inclusion of the lot number.

So there, pretty simple, that’s all that’s required in the label. But it is nice to have a little more information to make the label pretty and help us feel that we are getting something special for our money. So almost every label will contain one or more of the following:

Brand name
Vintage (the year the grapes were harvested…I thought this would be mandatory but it appears to be optional)
Bottling and manufacturing details (en chateau, oak casks, etc)
Country of origin (for export wines this may be mandatory)
Pretty design or illustration
Awards (watch out for the bogus ones)
Suggested serving temperature and food pairings (I find this very helpful, I wish all wines woud include it, at least when you make a mistake you have an excuse…it said so on the label!)

Et Voila! If you feel you need more specifics, you can read some technical info here about US regulations in particular.

So now pick out a wine bottle and cross out with a big black marker the mandatory data, and see how much of it is marketing. Interesting, isn’t it?

Posted by Sylvia Davis on May 02, 2005 in Wine

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