How to Read A Wine Label or Learn the Essential Tips and Tricks on How to Read Wine Labels and Impress Your Friends at Your Next Wine Tasting Party
The label of a bottle of wine can be considered its “identity card.”
This is because it contains essential information for identifying and knowing the wine you are about to buy and drink.
In this regard, European legislation has intervened to protect the consumer, elaborating a series of rules that specify what must necessarily be indicated on the label and what instead can be omitted or optionally inserted.
Mandatory Indications - Reading a wine label
According to the European standards in force, the wine consumer has the right to know the characteristics and properties of the wine he intends to consume. This information must be contained in a single visible field, namely the label, which can be placed on the front or, more frequently, on the back of the bottle.
Specifically, seven indispensable indications absolutely must appear on the label: denomination of the wine, name of the bottler, country of production, alcohol content, the quantity of wine contained in the bottle, presence or absence of sulfites, and lot.
The Denomination of the Wine refers to the name of the wine in the bottle, produced according to a specific specification. In our case “Vernaccia di San Gimignano”. The significant character with which the denomination is reported is not accidental because European legislation requires a double character or, in any case, more important than that of the headquarters of the manufacturing or bottling company.
On the other hand, it is optional to indicate the invented name with which the company identifies the wine: for example, “Visila della Marronaia.”
The denominations of wine also include the indications DOCG, DOC, or IGT, which must be reported either in extended form or an abbreviation. In the case of DOCG or DOC, like the one shown in the photo, it is also mandatory to report the vintage or the year in which the wine was harvested (“2021”). Sparkling wines and DOC or DOCG dessert wines are excluded from this obligation.
Name of the bottler
Another important indication that must absolutely be reported on the label concerns the company that has dealt with the bottling of the wine, or rather the final link in the production chain.
Therefore, in addition to the name, the headquarters of the bottling company must also be indicated. In our case, the company is the same of the producer “SOC.AGR PICO DI PIETRO E CORRADO DEI” based in “SAN GIMIGNANO- ITALY.”
The manufacturing company and the bottling company sometimes differ. Therefore, on the label, it is mandatory to indicate only the second, while the first is optional. However, there is an exception: the indication of the producer is compulsory in the case of sparkling wines.
Country of production
On the label of a bottle of wine, the indication of the country of origin and production of the wine must be present. In our case, “PRODOTTO IN ITALIA.” (IN ENGLISH “PRODUCED IN ITALY.”) The producer must report this wording in the language of the country in which the wine is produced and optionally add one or more translations into other European languages.
The alcohol content, which must be indicated on the label, shows the percentage of ethyl alcohol on the total volume of the drink, specifically, the milliliters of alcohol present in 100 ml of wine. This value must be reported in the form of a percentage followed by the acronym “vol” (see above “13% vol”).
Quantity of wine contained in the bottle
The quantity of wine in a bottle must necessarily be expressed, while freedom is given to describe it: in liters, centiliters, or milliliters. The amount must be reported in numerical form accompanied by the initials of the unit of measurement without punctuation. In our example, “750ml”.
It is also mandatory to write the estimated symbol, “e,” which certifies that the contents of the bottle comply with the estimate criteria and fall within the limits of the tolerable negative error (in other words, the quantity of wine contained in the bottle can vary minimally within certain limits set by law).
Presence of sulfites
In the production of wine, substances have often been added that favor its conservation, such as “sulfites,” thanks to their antibacterial and antioxidant properties. These substances can cause allergies or intolerances, so their presence should be noted. Also, organic wines contain sulfites. They can be added in a minimum quantity, and anyway, the skins of the grapes naturally have them.
A lot is a number predefined by the bottler, which brings together all the bottles filled and packaged in a similar period and in substantially identical conditions. In practice, the lot is the code used to trace the bottle of wine. It is a mandatory indication, valid for the consumer to report any anomalies to the bottle or its contents.
Thanks to the lot number, it is possible to trace all those bottles that may show the same potential problem.
European legislation does not provide particular indications regarding the composition of the lot, except that it must be a set of numeric and alphabetic characters preceded by the initials “L,” chosen, at the discretion, of those involved in the production of wine or its bottling.
In addition to the seven indications that must necessarily appear on the label of a bottle of wine, others can be added optionally because the producer or bottling company deems them useful or to provide as complete a picture as possible of the consumer. In our case, we have optional indications that describe the aromas of the wine and its taste and that this wine is not filtered as well as the Organic Certification.