Understanding a Wine Label

Wine Label Producer Varietal Alcohol Content Vintage Bottle Volume Growing Region Vineyard Designated
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wine label

A WINE LABEL

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PRODUCER

The name of the winery that produces the wine may potentially reveal more about the contents of the bottle than anything else on the label. The producer’s personality and style typically can come through in the wine. For those knowledgeable about wine, the producer’s name can be an indicator of a wine’s quality and character.

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VARIETAL

In the U.S., varietal wines must be made from 75% of the grape variety named on the label. If a wine is a blend of varieties, they must be listed in descending order of their contribution. So if there’s more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot in a blend, it must be called “Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot,” not the other way around.

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VINTAGE

The year the grapes for the wine were grown and harvested, not when the wine was bottled. U.S. wine law states 95% of the grapes for a wine must come from the vintage year on the label. The rest can
be a blend from different years.

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GROWING REGION

“Appellation of origin” is a geographical
term that indicates where the grapes are grown for a particular wine. An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a more specific
area meeting certain federal regulations. To include an AVA on a U.S. wine label, 85% of the grapes in the wine must come from the AVA indicated. In 2003, the Yadkin Valley in northwestern North Carolina was designated as the state’s first American Viticultural Area. In 2008, Swan Creek and in 2009
Haw River were also designated as AVAs.

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VINEYARD DESIGNATED

According to U.S. law, 95% of the grapes in a wine must come from one particular vineyard in order for a producer to include the vineyard designation on the label.

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ALCOHOL CONTENT

Standards vary from one country to the next. In the U.S., the percentage of alcohol in table wine must fall between a minimum of 7% and a maximum of 14%. This percentage must be printed on the label.

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BOTTLE VOLUME

Stated in milliliters. The standard bottle is 750 milliliters. Standard Magnum is 1.5 liters. Half bottles are 375 milliliters.