The Ten Most Important Wine Label Terms

For the average wine consumer, there is a plethora of intimidation associated with wine buying. This is a feeling that is most often associated with not understanding wine labels. New world wines tend to make it easier - wines bottled in Australia, South America and the United States are often more direct in their presentation of the type of wine and the name of the vineyard. On the other hand, old world wine labels like those from France, Italy, Spain and Germany carry with them loads of classifications, harvest-types, town names, vineyard titles and producer idiosyncrasies - all in a foreign language. While these labels embody the wonderfully classic aesthetic associated with a good looking wine label, they almost always cause a cocking of the head for the average wine buyer.

In an effort to make the process less of a mess and more fun for those unmoved with the prospect of memorizing a pocket dictionary worth of French, Italian, Spanish and German wine terms, here is a list of the top ten things to look for on a wine label. The first five are things you want to look for, and the last five are items that should raise a flag of caution or don't mean what you think they should.

1. Cru

If there's one term you should learn when looking for a good French wine, it's Cru. The infamous wine regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace in France will carry the term Cru somewhere on the label to indicate that the wine is from a town or producer of high quality.

2. Poor Soil / Deprived of Water

This will be something you read on the back of the wine label if there is a description. Sure - it sounds counter-intuitive, but wine that is grown in poor soil and deprived of water irrigation is actually likely to be of higher quality. Why? Because when a vine is deprived of excess water and nutrients, it will channel more of its energy into ripening the fruit rather than producing bright and vibrant leaves. The result is a higher quality grape harvest.

3. Methode Traditionelle (Traditional Method)

This applies primarily to sparkling wine made in the United States and Australia. If you see Traditional Method on the label of a new world wine it means that it is made in the same way as traditional Champagne, and will often be less expensive!

4. Vieilles Vignes (Old Vines)

Similar to the concept of vines grown in poor soil with minimal irrigation, vines that are considered old vines have more concentrated juices. The result is a vine that produces wines with denser, richer flavors. And as the juice is more robust, so usually are the other aspects of the grape, including the tannin and the acidity. A reference to Old vines either on the front or the back label is a positive indication of the wine's quality. This will be called Vieilles Vignes on French Wines.

5. Estate Bottled

On a bottle of French wine, you will see this labeled as Mis en Bouteille au Chateau, Mis en Bouteille au Domaine, or Mis en Bouteille au Propriete. The concept of an estate bottled wine is that it was grown, produced and bottled at the same location. There is an inference that the wine maker takes a great deal of pride in all aspects of the wine making process and wants the world to know that he or she oversees every element of the wine's production. As such, it is typically a reference to higher quality wine.

6. Odd Sounding or Unfamiliar Wine Awards

This is something that should raise a red flag. Australia notoriously has problems with wine makers placing gold, silver or bronze stickers on their wine labels that boast winning an award at an esoteric wine festival. Until very recently, there was no regulation in place for what type of award was worthy of placing on a wine label. If you do see award-winning stickers, make sure that the event sounds familiar or at least sounds large. You don't want to end up with a wine that won an award at a bake sale.

7. Flowery Marketing Terms

Most consumers have no problem identifying marketing adjectives from legitimate inferences to why a product is high-quality. Be wary of terms that a marketer developed while staying up late at the local café in the midst of a brain-storming frenzy. Anything that is trying to sound impressive by using words like exceptional, from wine maker's personal bin, or limited release is most likely trying to sell the wine based on gimmicks rather than on its quality.

8. Vague Geological References

High quality wines are usually a reflection of the unique characteristics of the small plot of land on which the grapes were grown. Wine makers will want to highlight this fact by referencing their specific region or town and the vineyard name. Be cautious of wine labels that reference a vague geographical space without getting more specific. South-Eastern Australia is a notorious labeling term you will find on Australian wines, which is about as specific as saying This Wine Was Made on Planet Earth. South-Eastern Australia includes the majority of the country's wine growing regions. Similarly, a wine that only says California Wine, or French Wine without honing in on towns or more isolated regions should be avoided.

9. Grand Vin

A Grand Vin term on a French wine label simply refers to the fact that the wine is the primary one produced at that vineyard. It is often confused with Vieilles Vignes (Old Vine), which is a reflection of quality. Grand Vin is a neutral term that will give you little indication either way.

10. Superieur

This labeling term causes confusion similar to Grand Vine listed above. It sounds cool but all it really refers to is the fact that a French or an Italian wine has a higher alcohol content than what it is traditionally known for.

The art of understanding the wine label can be the journey of a lifetime, but there's no reason why the average consumer can't get a leg up by understanding some of the key items to recognize. The most important thing is to have a sense of adventure and continue to explore new wines. Taste them and see how the label reflects what you like (or don't like) about the wine. If it was flat and watery, were there gimmicky marketing terms that were used in the description? If it was full, balanced and complex, did it have a reference to Old Vines? The terms listed here will help equally with choosing wine off of a menu at a restaurant as buying a bottle in a store. Listen closely to the waiter or sommelier's description. You never know what gems you can find by simply being aware of the terms listed here!

Tynan Szvetecz is an editor for http://www.savoreachglass.com, an international wine directory that is helping explore the spirit of wine for a new generation. Wine hobbyists, sommeliers, merchants and growers have all come together to contribute content to this directory in an effort to make it as informative and easy to use as possible.

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

Knoxville News Sentinel

As Total Wine superstore looms, Turkey Creek Wine and Spirits decides to stop selling wine
Knoxville News Sentinel
As a wine and liquor superstore prepares to come to the Turkey Creek area, Turkey Creek Wine and Spirits has decided to quit selling wine. "After 15 years of serving Knoxville, Farragut, and the surrounding areas, we have made the difficult decision to ...


North Bay Business Journal

Gilliland of Purple Wine + Spirits in Sonoma County wins Forty ...
North Bay Business Journal
Eric Gilliland of Purple Wine + Spirits in west Sonoma County wins a North Bay Business Journal Forty Under 40 award.

and more »

Beer, wine, spirits: Where to grab a drink in Snohomish County
The Daily Herald
Star Leaf release party: Bothell's Decibel Brewing will hold a release party for its Star Leaf Black IPA, a beer brewed in conjunction with the release of the “Star Leaf” movie. There will be a release party and movie screening on April 20 at the ...


The Tennessean

Rutherford County liquor stores moving 'heaven and earth' to open on Sunday
The Daily News Journal
Consumers may be excited at the news that Tennessee liquor stores can now open on Sundays, but store owners are a little more hesitant. More: You can buy wine on Sunday: Governor signs bill, liquor stores can open Sunday. "You don't create new drinkers ...
Sunday wine, liquor sales in Tennessee now official as Haslam ...The Tennessean
List of Knoxville-area liquor stores opening on SundayWBIR.com
Like it or not, Memphis liquor stores ramp up for Sunday wine salesThe Commercial Appeal
Clarksville Leaf Chronicle -Knoxville News Sentinel -Chattanooga Times Free Press
all 27 news articles »

The Courier-Journal

A new wine shop opened near Waterfront Park just in time for Thunder Over Louisville
The Courier-Journal
Downtown Louisville's newest wine shop — with its green-tinted windows and burnt orange furniture — looks like it was transplanted straight from the Miami strip. But instead of beach bums wandering in from the sand to grab a bottle of pinot on their ...


decanter.com

Harrods opens lavish fine wine and spirits rooms
decanter.com
London luxury department store Harrods has opened its fine wine and spirits rooms, which include interactive features such as an 'aroma table' and were reportedly a 'multi-million pound' investment for the retailer. Harrods Fine Wine Spirits rooms. The ...
Harrods reveals new Fine Wine and Spirits Rooms - Off Licence ...Drinks Retailing News (blog)
With bottles from £12 to £28,000, Harrods unveils its new wine roomsTelegraph.co.uk

all 4 news articles »

Premium Sweet Spot Propels Portfolio Gains For Trinchero
Shanken News Daily
Trinchero Family Estates, the fourth-largest wine marketer in the U.S., sells more than 17 million cases annually, with its Sutter Home brand accounting for more than 10 million cases, according to Impact Databank. But while Sutter Home continues to ...


News Briefs for April 19, 2018
Shanken News Daily
•Montelobos Mezcal, imported by William Grant & Sons, is set to launch a new expression, Tobalá, this July. Retailing at $80 a 750-ml., Montelobos Tobalá is billed as having a more prominent green agave profile with milder smoke, wood, and cooked agave ...


Algodon Wines & Luxury Development Group Partners with Wally's Wine and Spirits for California Distribution
Marketwired (press release)
In December of 2017, Algodon Fine Wines began selling at both the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Wally's locations as well as on their website, www.wallywine.com. A formal Algodon launch dinner will be held in Los Angeles in late May for Algodon Fine ...

and more »

AB InBev Dips Its Toe Into Spirits, E-Commerce With Atom Group Purchase
Shanken News Daily
AB InBev's ZX Ventures has acquired the Atom Group, a U.K.-based e-commerce company and spirits producer and distributor, for an undisclosed sum. The deal gives ZX Ventures control of e-commerce site Master of Malt, craft spirits distributor Maverick ...

and more »
Google News

Wine, Wine, Wine

What in the world is up!Was there a full moon... Read More

Australia Is More Than Jacobs Creek

The Jacobs Creek Brand of wines have taken the world... Read More

Ideal Wine Temperature

The ideal temperature to store wines is between 55ºF and... Read More

Wine Tasting -- The Traditional Way

Wine tasting is properly known as 'Wine Degustation'. It is... Read More

Merlot Wine

Merlot wine is a rich, soft wine with the flavor... Read More

Buying Wine, How to Read a Wine Label and Select a Great Bottle of Wine

I must admit, that for many of us, walking into... Read More

Tequila

It was once a ritual usually performed by a man.... Read More

Hosting A Wine Tasting Party

As your love and knowledge of wine grows, it is... Read More

Choosing a Wine Gift Basket

During the holiday season, most of us are in a... Read More

Whisky Syndicates

Whisky syndicates are groups of private owners and many have... Read More

Choosing that Perfect Wine for a Dinner Party

So, you find yourself having been invited to a dinner... Read More

Alchoholism, A Major Diesease?

Alcoholism can be given a lot of definitions and all... Read More

Counting Carbs With Wine

The recent health claims that wines have antioxidants... Read More

The Old Fashioned: Two Recipes of an Underrated Classic

Like many mixed drinks, the Old Fashioned has a number... Read More

The Curious History Of Wine Consumption In America

The history of wine consumption in America has been frought... Read More

A Private Owners Guide to Bottling Fine Whisky

The majority of private owners of whisky casks are looking... Read More

The Mystery of Decanting

Decanting is a strange word to many people. Some do... Read More

Explore the U.S. Wine Trails

Follow a Local Wine Trail to Discover the Secrets of... Read More

Tasting Wine

Wine Tasting Component I: LookThe first step you have to... Read More

Cabernet Sauvignon Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon is the grape responsible for the wines of... Read More

Wine and Your Health

During the 1990s, a physician voiced on a national TV... Read More

What is Corked Wine?

Keeping a wine bottle sealed is probably the most important... Read More

Start Your Wine Cellar The Right Way

One of the great joys of wine is to be... Read More

How to Order Wine in a Restaurant

Ordering wine in a restaurant is not much different than... Read More

The Ten Most Important Wine Label Terms

For the average wine consumer, there is a plethora of... Read More