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What You Can Learn From Wine Labels

Have you ever stood in the wine aisle staring at row and row of wine bottles wondering which wine you should buy? Most people will select a wine because they like the mark. They are usually drawn to an fascinating graphic or clever name on the mark. Wine marks are vital marketing tools, but there are also facts to be learned by really reading the mark.

Who? The wine mark will always tell the name of the winery that made the wine. Wineries often add a proprietary name to the wine. This is usually a marketing tool to encourage interest in the wine.

What? The mark will state what type of wine is in the bottle. If it is labeled as a specific type of wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, this means that at least 75% of the wine was produced from Cabernet grapes. Blending juice from other types of grapes is a common practice and often will improve the flavor and aroma of the wine.

When? Vintage is the term used to refer to the year in which the grapes were grown. In the United States wineries are allowed to blend in wine from other years. But, 85% of the volume must be from the year on the mark. Not all wines are bottled as vintage wines. If you don’t see a year on the mark, it is not a vintage wine. Vintage becomes vital when wine from a particular year is known to be of better quality than wine from other years. Vintage is also vital in aging wines.

Where? When a wine mark states that a wine is made from California grown grapes, 100% of the grapes used to produce that wine must be from California. Other states are not as strict and usually require that 75% of the grapes come from a particular state.

Sometimes wine marks will specify which officially designated viticultural area a wine came from; usually this is a region such as Napa Valley that is noted for high quality wines. When this occurs, it means that 85% or more of the grapes must have been grown in that area.

Some vineyards have become known for producing wine of a superior quality. The winery will want to mention the vineyard on the mark. Vineyard specific wines like these need to use 95% or more of the grapes from that particular vineyard.

There are wineries that specialize in “estate bottled” wines. Usually this would be included on the mark. Estate bottled means that all of the grapes were grown by the winery and that all of the wine making processes were also under the winery’s control.

The next time you are shopping for a bottle of wine, take a closer look at the wine mark. You will find that wine marks can be quite informative.

Kathy Howe and her husband, Steve Howe, spend much of their free time tasting and enjoying wine. Their interest in wine is reflected in their web site, cheers2wine.com cheers2wine.com – a Comprehensive Guide to the California Wine Country. They continue to explore wineries throughout California.

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