Wine is an extraordinary and fascinating drink. It brings together people from all over the world, from Chile to France, to drink in celebration of all aspects of life. If you are a wine lover you may certainly be extremely comfortable to make frequent selections of good wine for enjoyment at special occasions, for personal pleasure or alternatively to start a collection as an investment.
For persons who have little or no exposure to wine but at some point in time have to choose a bottle for that family gathering or a gift to a wine enthusiast may find the process of selection quite a daunting and confusing task. Also, the vast variety of wine from around the globe can increase the frustration rather than facilitate selection. The wine bottle may be appealing and greatly designed but it is what is stored inside that is going to be enjoyed.
The secret to a wise and comfortable choice of a great wine is found in the front label on the bottle. This contains all the information you need to know about the type and origin of the wine and once you understand what the small print and the terminology is all about, you will find it easier to choose and ultimately enjoy that bottle of wine.
Rules on the required wine labeling information vary from country to country. Some of the information which wine producers indicate on wine labels is mandatory which means that it is required by the country’s specific laws or by a specific European Union Directive if the producer operates within the EU. The compulsory information must be produced on the label in the same visual field and clearly legible. Wine labels may contain other particulars which are optional and may not be found on all labels.
Brand Name: this is name used by the producer that has produced the wine to identify the wine. A brand name may be the actual name of the winery, producer or bottler or an invented name to refer to a particular quality of wine.
Nominal Value: this is to expressed in figures, for instance, 75cl.
Strength/Alcohol content: this offers an indication of the percentage of alcohol by volume to be found in the wine. A percentage between 7.5% – 10.5% indicates light body, 10.5% – 12.5% indicates medium body and 12.5% and over indicates full body (very high alcohol).
Producer and Bottler’s Details: this indicates where the bottle of wine originates from (harvested and bottled). The producer’s name can be the name of the winery, in countries like the United States and Australia, a Chateau, in some parts of France (Bordeaux), of a Domaine in other areas of France (Burgundy) and of wine estates in Italy and Spain.
The bottler and the producer are often the same but occasionally a company other than the producer bottles the wine. A wine label which says ‘Estate bottled’ effectively means the wine was bottled by the producer.
Country of Origin or Region: this indicates the place or the geographical area where the grapes were grown, for example, Malta or Italy. Blended wine from one country must be clearly indicated, for example, ‘Blend of wines from different countries of the European Community’.
Type of wine: this information indicates the type of grapes used to make the wine, for instance, Merlot or Zinfandel.
Vintage Year: this is the year in which the grapes where harvested and the wine was made.
Sulphur Dioxide content: this information will be required on any label when the sulphur exceeds 10mg/litre.
Name of the Importer: details of the particular person or company importing the wine into the country for distribution. This information is generally found on the back label.
Volume of the bottles content: the figure is usually found embossed on the base of bottle glass rather than printed on the label.
Quality of the wine: the wine’s quality is determined by the rating it receives in the producing country’s Wine Regulation Board or other similar regulating body. Locally, a wine of high quality would be labelled as DOC (Denominazzjoni ta’ Origini Kontrollota – DOK) and the mention ‘Rizerva’ is attributed to DOK wines which are not sparkling and which have been subject of a period of ageing of not less that two years.
The back label usually contains further descriptive information on the wine in order to give you added knowledge on the bouquet or flavour and food pairing suggestions.
Understanding a wine label is just one of the several factors to help you select the best bottle of wine ideal for your occasion and palate. Other factors which will help you in your choice is the type of wine (red wines or white wines) and the place where you make your purchase. A basic knowledge about the types of wine and a good set of taste buds will surely enhance your ability to confidently decide on the right wine for you. Cheers!