Tips for Reading Wine Labels Like a Sommelier

The labels on wine bottles can be puzzling when you don’t know what to look for. You see the word “vintage,” but don’t know what it means. Is it from the 1960s? There are so many terms on the label, and you want to make sense of it all. Keep reading to discover a few tips for reading wine labels like a sommelier!

Type of Wine

The type of wine is an essential feature generally on the front of a label. The wine type listed tells you which kind of grape variety is in the bottle (and, per regulation, this grape must make up at least 75 percent of the bottle’s volume to be listed as the wine type). At times, if the bottle you choose contains multiple grape varieties, the winemaker will list, in descending order, the other varieties used to create the wine. 

Who’s the Producer?

The wine producer is featured on the bottle’s front label. Typically, you can find the producer’s name for New World wines on the bottom of the label, also prevalent for French winemakers. 

If you’re having trouble locating the winemaker’s name on the front of the label, you can find it on the bottle’s back label or even the neck.

Region of Origin or Appellation 

You’ll find the region or the appellation on the front label of almost every wine bottle. This information legally verifies where the wine grapes were grown. 

The region is straightforward, but the appellation is a bit more complex. The most important feature on the label is the region because it’s the geographical guarantee that the wine originated from where the winemakers claim. 

In order to legally claim a region, that grape variety must make up at least 75 percent of the bottle. Some areas are more strict about this. For example, California requires a bottle of wine to contain 100 percent California grapes to receive the state’s appellation. 

Vintage Year Meaning

Vintage refers to the year in which the wine grapes were harvested. For example, if you pick up a bottle of 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, the grapes used in the wine production were picked in 2016. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when the wine was bottled, as wines can be stored/aged in steel containers or oak barrels before bottling. 

There are rules to govern how a winemaker can label their bottle’s vintage. They must ensure that 85 percent of the wine’s grape blend comes from the year marked on the bottle. 

Now that you have a better understanding of wine labels, check out our fine wine for sale and confidently buy the right wine for you! Grab a bottle you love or try something new! Use these tips for reading wine labels like a sommelier to find something you’ll love. 


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