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Wine 101


Introduction
Wine Making Process
Wine Storing
Decanting
Wine Tasting
Wine Serving
White Wine Grapes
Red Wine Grapes
Wine & Food Pairings
How To Read a Wine Label
Wine Glossary
Wine Recommendations
It’s the afternoon of the big dinner party and you go into your favorite wine shop to purchase what is going to be a spectacular wine that compliments your culinary creation

How To Read A Wine Label

 

It’s the afternoon of the big dinner party and you go into your favorite wine shop to purchase what is going to be a spectacular wine that compliments your culinary creation. Your new boss and his wife are your guests and you want everything to be perfect. For months, you have told him what a wine connoisseur you are. After all, he can’t show you up. So as you enter the store, you are faced with hundreds of bottles from many countries and various vintages. Confusion settles in and you instantly forget what type of wine goes with your meal. You know the entrée requires a red wine, but which one – Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Merlot or perhaps some blend such as a Médoc. Even more daunting, knowing which country to choose from and which vintage year is best. You could ask the sales person, but it appears that he just graduated from high school and probably knows less than you do.

 

Well I’m here to say that you will only get some help at the store. The better stores are putting up tags depicting various ratings from Wine Spectator to Wine Enthusiast to picks from the store. This helps tp a certain extent, but does not go all the way. It is hoped that the label would give us a clue, but not always. If we look at the depicted label, I have highlighted items of note. Certainly the vintage year is always listed prominently. As stated in previous sections, a quality producer can only do so much with a bad vintage year. A bad producer can ruin even a good vintage year. The producer is always proudly displayed. In the beginning, stick with those you know, then branch out and try other emerging producers in your price range. Of course the specific grape and appellation are listed. In this case, the grape is Montepulciano and the label also tells us that it comes from the region in Italy known as Abruzzo region. The volume of wine, always measured in metric. The typical bottle is 750 ml – enough for 2 people at dinner. Half bottles are 375ml, obviously just right if you are eating alone. Also those large 1.5 liter bottles are great for larger gatherings or if you really want to tie one on. Alcoholic content varies from bottle to bottle typically the result of the fermentation process. In the example, it is 13% by volume or 26 proof. Rounding out the label is the country of origin, in this case Italy and the importer. Although you may think you know from the label that Italian wine is what you have just chosen, remember that the Montepulciano grape is grown in other parts of the world such as the United States.

 

Also notice the Italian phrase Denominazione di Origine Controllata. Translated to mean Controlled Denomination of Origin or DOC for short, it is Italy’s system for standardizing quality wines in the country. The DOC defines the geographic area, yields, minimum alcohol content, aging, acidity levels and so on. The French equivalent is Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.


The back label is the producer’s opportunity to make a statement about his wine

The back label is the producer’s opportunity to make a statement about his wine. Clearly, some do a better job than others. Most wine drinkers are savvy enough to know that you don’t drink a cabernet with poached lemon sole or a fumé blanc with braised lamb shanks. These are the obvious extremes. A good producer will use the back label to describe the wines characteristics. The pictured back label depicts the flavors of the wine as ripe raspberry and black cherry. It also suggests the type of food to serve it with – in this case roasted meats, game, mushroom dishes and cheese. Also many stores are using industry ratings cards to help consumers make selections. The price does not always follow the ratings. Some highly rated wines are reasonably priced. It still comes down to your individual taste and preference.