Just as you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, so it is with wine labels.
The role of the label goes far beyond aesthetics and marketing (although we can come across real works of graphic art), acting as a wine's identity card.
Reading it gives the consumer a series of relevant clues, giving us the opportunity to find out a little more about the wine in our hands before we taste it.
This article will help you learn how to read a wine label and understand all the useful information you can glean from it, so you can perfect your tasting skills.
What does a label tell us about a wine?
At first glance, wine labels can seem confusing, presenting us with various technical terms and seemingly complex information.
By knowing how to read these contents, we can have a richer and more informed experience, which allows us to find the wines we are looking for or enjoy the most.
Amongst all the valuable information that can be gleaned from a label, there are some things that are compulsory and others that may or may not be complementary.
Mandatory information on a wine label
1. The brand name
The brand or trade name of the wine must appear on all wine bottle labels.
This element, which also forms part of the wine's identity, can be presented in written or figurative form.
2. Indication of origin
The reference to the region where the wine was produced is essential information that can reveal a lot about the type and profile of the wine in question. Many regions are known for producing wines with specific characteristics, which can make it easier to recognise certain styles.
This indication can refer to wines produced in Controlled Designation of Origin (DOC) areas, regional wines, fortified wines or sparkling wines.
3. The producer/bottler
The label must mention the producer and bottler, as well as the municipality and country where the company is based.
4. The volume of the liquid content
The quantity of wine in the bottle is indicated by the nominal volume, expressed in litres, centilitres or millilitres. Standard bottles used for bottling wine have a nominal volume of 0.75 litres, 75 cl or 750 ml. Special editions generally have larger volumes.
5. Alcohol content
It is also compulsory to mention the amount of ethyl alcohol that the wine in the bottle contains, expressed as a percentage by volume (% vol).
The alcohol content varies from wine to wine and is usually between 10 and 15 per cent.
Identifying this information is useful, for example, for those looking for lighter or fuller-bodied wines.
6. Batch reference
The label must always indicate the number of the batch to which the wine belongs, in order to ensure the product's traceability, should the need arise.
7. Presence of sulphites
This indication is mandatory when the wine has a concentration of sulphites (sulphur dioxide added to the wine to help preserve it) of more than 10 mg/l. The presence of this indication is relevant for people who may be hypersensitive to this chemical compound.
New rules for wine labels in December 2023
Wines produced and labelled from 8 December 2023 onwards will be obliged to provide the consumer with the product's nutritional declaration and list of ingredients.
The producer can, however, choose not to put this information on the label, as long as it is available electronically and accessible from the packaging (for example, via a QR code).
Optional information and wine back labels
In addition to the mandatory information described above, it is common for wine brands to provide consumers with various other important pieces of information.
Through this complementary content, producers seek not only to differentiate and publicise their wine in more detail, but also to provide a set of indications that allow the product to be explored and tasted to its full potential.
Much of this information is presented through the auxiliary use of back labels.
Optional information often found on labels:
> year of harvest (an important detail, as harvests vary according to the climate and each year can bring different characteristics to the wine)
> type of wine (e.g. Red, White, Rosé...)
> producer's classification (e.g. Reserva, Colheita Selecionada...)
> prizes and awards won
Optional information often found on back labels:
> history of the producer
> winemaker's name
> wine characteristics
> main tasting notes and expected sensory profile (aromas, flavours and body)
> grape varieties used
> harvesting process
> guidance notes for consumption (suggestions for dishes to accompany the wine, indication of serving temperature, potential for ageing the wine or the possible need for decanting)
> tips for better preservation of the product
> inclusion of specific symbols for identifying vegan and organic wines
Pay attention to the wine label: it's like reading a map to get to the treasure
By now, you've realised the importance of reading a wine label.
This is a true ally that will help you when choosing a wine, so that you can try the one that best suits your profile and avoid unwanted surprises when tasting.
Now that you know how to decipher and interpret the various pieces of information the label gives you, it's time to put that knowledge into practice. We suggest a visit to our Uva Wine Shop
, where there are several labels waiting for you. Use them as a map and have fun exploring the diversity of options we've selected for you. We're sure you'll find your treasure here!