10 Most Important Wine Label Parts to Look for First-time Buyer

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There are several factors that might make a first-time wine purchase an intimidating experience for the typical wine drinker. This is a sensation that is almost often brought on by a lack of familiarity with the contents of wine labels. Wines from the New World, such as those from Australia, South America, and the United States, have a tendency to make the process simpler since they show the kind of wine and the name of the vineyard in a more straightforward manner on the bottle. On the other hand, old world wine labels such as those from France, Italy, Spain, and Germany bring with them a plethora of classifications, harvest-types, town names, vineyard titles, and producer quirks, all of which are written in a language other than English. Although these labels exemplify the delightfully traditional style that is associated with a fine looking wine label, the typical consumer of wine nearly always reacts with a quizzical expression when they see one of these labels.

The following is a list of the top 10 things to look for on a wine label, which has been compiled in an attempt to make the process less of a mess and more enjoyable for those who are unaffected by the thought of learning a pocket dictionary’s worth of French, Italian, Spanish, and German wine words. The first five are the things that you want to look for, and the final five are the elements that should raise a flag of warning or don’t signify what you believe they should imply.

  1. Cru

When searching for an excellent French wine, the phrase “Cru” is the most important one to get familiar with. If a bottle of wine comes from one of France’s most well-known wine regions, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Alsace, the word “Cru” will be printed on the bottle in some capacity to denote that it comes from a prestigious town or producer.

  1. Unsatisfactory Soil that is Lacking in Water

If there is a description of the wine, you will be able to find this information on the rear of the bottle label. There is a good chance that the wine will be of greater quality if it is cultivated on poor soil and is not irrigated with water. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is true. Why? When a vine is denied of extra water and nutrients, it will use more of its energy into ripening the fruit rather than creating brilliant and colorful leaves. This is because the vine needs its energy to support the growth of the plant. The end consequence is a crop of grapes of a better grade.

  1. The Authentic Methodical Approach (Traditional Method)

This mostly refers to sparkling wines produced in countries such as the United States and Australia. If you see the words “Conventional Method” printed on the label of a wine from a new world region, this indicates that the wine was produced using the same techniques as traditional Champagne, but it will likely cost you less.

  1. Vieilles Vignes (Old Vines)

Similar to the idea that grapevines cultivated in poor soil with little irrigation produce more concentrated juices, vines that are thought to be ancient produce liquids that are more concentrated. The end result is a vine that yields wines with tastes that are more concentrated and full-bodied. Also, as the juice becomes more powerful, the other elements of the grape, such as the tannin and the acidity, often follow suit and become more pronounced. A favorable indicator of the wine’s quality is the presence of a reference to old vineyards on either the front or the rear label of the bottle. On French wines, this designation will be known as Vieilles Vignes.

  1. A Bottle from the Estate

This will be branded as Mis en Bouteille au Chateau, Mis en Bouteille au Domaine, or Mis en Bouteille au Propriete on the bottle of French wine that you purchase. The wine was cultivated, produced, and bottled all in the same spot; this is the definition of what is known as an estate bottled wine. Inferring that the winemaker takes a great deal of pride in all aspects of the winemaking process and wants the world to know that he or she oversees all aspects of the production of the wine is consistent with the idea that the winemaker takes a lot of pride in all aspects of the winemaking process. As a result, it is most often used to refer to wines of a better grade.

  1. Wine Awards with an Unfamiliar or Bizarre Sounding Name

The fact that this is happening ought to send up warning signs. It is common knowledge that wine producers in Australia have a problem with boasting about their wines’ award-winning status in obscure wine competitions by affixing gold, silver, or bronze stickers to the bottle labels. Up until very recently, there was no law in existence that said what kind of prize should be deserving of being placed on the label of a bottle of wine. If you come across stickers indicating that they have won awards, be sure that the competition is one that you are acquainted with or that at the very least seems significant. You definitely don’t want to wind up with a bottle of wine that was named the best at a local bake sale.

  1. Marketing Jargon Made of Flowers

The vast majority of customers have no trouble distinguishing marketing words from reasonable judgments about the reasons why a product is of high quality. Be aware of phrases that a marketer conceived up while staying up late at the neighborhood coffee shop in the middle of a rush of creative thinking. Anything that is attempting to appear spectacular by using phrases like extraordinary, from the wine maker’s personal bin, or limited release is most likely attempting to sell the wine based on gimmicks rather than on the quality of the wine itself.

  1. Vague Geological References

The distinctive qualities of the little parcel of land on which the grapes were produced are often reflected in wines of exceptional quality since this is how wine is made. Winemakers will wish to call attention to this fact by making a reference to their particular area or town, as well as the name of the vineyard. Be wary of wine labels that make reference to a broad geographical area without providing any more information. This Wine Was Made on Planet Earth is approximately as detailed as stating This Wine Was Made in South-Eastern Australia, which is a labeling word often seen on Australian wines. South-Eastern Australia is an infamous labeling term. The bulk of Australia’s wine producing areas are located in the south-eastern part of the nation. In a similar vein, you should steer clear of any wine labeled simply as “Wine from California” or “Wine from France” without specifying any particular cities or regions.

  1. Grand Vin

On the label of a bottle of French wine, the phrase “Grand Vin” means nothing more than that the wine in question is the major one that is made at the vineyard in question. It is sometimes mistaken with Vieilles Vignes, which means “Old Vine” and is a reflection of the wine’s quality. The word “Grand Vin” is uninformative and won’t provide you with much guidance either way.

  1. Superieur

This labeling word also leads to misunderstanding, in a manner similar to that of Grand Vine, which was discussed before. It could be interesting to hear, but all it truly refers to is the fact that a French or an Italian wine has a greater alcohol level than what it is generally known for.

The process of mastering the art of reading a wine label may be a trip that lasts a lifetime, but there’s no reason why the typical consumer shouldn’t get a head start by learning to identify a few of the most important elements on the label. The single most essential thing is to maintain a spirit of exploration and never stop looking for new wines to try. Try each one, and then think about how well the label represents what you enjoy (or dislike) about the wine. Were there any gimmicky marketing phrases that were utilized in the description of it if it was watery and flat? Did it make any reference to Old Vines if it was complete, if it was well-balanced, and if it was complicated? When it comes to selecting wine from a menu at a restaurant or when purchasing a bottle of wine in a shop, the phrases that are mentioned below will be of equal assistance. Pay careful attention to the waiter or sommelier as they describe the dish. The mere fact that you are familiar with the concepts presented here might lead to the discovery of priceless treasures.

Jan Helge

Jan Helge is a renowned wine connoisseur and aficionado with a passion for sharing his knowledge and expertise. He has dedicated his life to the study and appreciation of fine wines, honing his skills through years of study and practical experience at various wineries. Jan is the founder of WineCellarSecrets, a blog that provides a wealth of information on all things wine-related. Whether you are a seasoned wine lover or just starting to explore the world of wine, Jan Helge's WineCellarSecrets is the perfect source of inspiration and education.

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