Before anyone gets their panties or boxers in a bunch, let me state that I am not encouraging alcoholism. What I am asking, however, is that you need not be afraid to walk into a special beverage store or down a wine isle and be intimidated by the array of selections at your fingertips. Wine is proof that you are loved and more than welcomed to partake in the hedonist pleasure of drinking it. Yes, one can become a bit intimidated by all of the flowery language associated with wine, but ultimately in the end you will drink what you like. Breaking down and decoding wine labels is not a rocket science, but it can be a bit daunting reading some of them. The wine labels from the United States and other New World Regions (Chile, North and South America, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa) are simpler to read than many of the European ones. Here is the best way to break down the front of U.S. and other New World Region wine labels:
Vintage- The year located on the front of the wine bottle that indicates the year the grapes were harvested. i.e. (2008, 2000).
Alcohol level- Described in percentage by volume that indicates the alcoholic strength of the wine. Most labels will read anywhere from 7% to 15%.
Vineyard/Producer/Winery/Estate- Who makes the wine. Sutter Home, Hogue, Francis Ford Collopa, and Rosemount Estate are examples of wineries.
Region- The place where the wine is grown. Napa Valley, Columbia Valley, and Walla Walla Valley are examples of wine regions here in the U.S.
Grape Variety/Varietal- The type of grape used in the wine. Cabernet, for example, is a red grape variety and Pinot Grigio is a white grape variety.
The back of U.S. and other New World Region wine labels are typically filled with government warnings and may include tasting notes from the winery. I like reading the tasting notes to access if my palette favors some of the flavors mentioned. My ABC version of reading a wine label will help many of you. I am as adventurous as possible when it comes to drinking and learning about wine. If, however, there are other “nerds to core” like I, here is a detailed breakdown of a wine label from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau. Head on into the special beverage store or down the wine isle with a little bit of sommelier swag in your step. Read those labels, purchase what you favor, pour a glass, and have a drink.
San, The Red Head