How to Read A Wine Label

How to Read A Wine LabelA wine label is a very useful tool when exploring new wines as it provides useful information for understanding what’s inside the bottle.

Wine Producer: Driven by history, the name will tell you if the wine has heritage and quality, which helps to set expectations. A brand name is not allowed to mislead anyone about age, identity or origin.

Appellation and Varietal: The country or region where the grapes are grown. It may be as broad as an entire country, or as defined as a single renowned vineyard. If a single vineyard is mentioned, the country is often added to help place the wine’s origin.

Vintage: The year the grapes were harvested. A season of blessed grape-growing weather and perfectly timed harvesting can create greatness. On the other hand, unfortunate conditions or poorly times harvesting can affect vintage quality, quantity and availability. Wines designated with NV feature grapes that are harvested from multiple years.

Classification: European countries indicate a wine has achieved a standard of higher quality as determined by the country of origin’s government via the inclusion of certain phrases on the wine’s label. These are as follows:

France

> Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC).

> Grand Cru, Grand Cru Classe and Premier Cru are also used to denote the vineyards of higher quality.

Italy

> Denominazione de Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) or Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC).

> Reserva, Italian for “reserve,” can only be applied to Italian DOC or DOCG wines that have been aged longer than the required time. The better wines are usually chosen to become Reservas. Total aging time varies from wine to wine. A Chianti Reserva, for example, receives a minimum of two years and three months of aging, whereas a Barbaresco Riserva gets four years and Barolo and Brunello de Montalcino Reservas each get five years.

Spain

> Dominación de Origen (DO).

Estate Bottled: If a wine is labeled “estate bottled” it means that 100% of the wine must come from grapes grown, harvested and bottled in the vineyard’s own estate. French labels disclose this information by saying “Mise en bouteille(s) au Chateau”; in Germany, it’s “Gutsabfullung”; and Italian labels use “Tenuta/e,” often within additional bottling details.

Alcohol Percentage and Volume: Wineries are allowed a 1.5% disparity in the displayed Alcohol by Volume (ABV). So a wine labeled as 14% ABV may contain up to 15.5% ABV. Most wines have an ABV that rests somewhere between 12% and 14%, but can be as low as 8.5% in some German wines, and as high as 16% in a number of New World wines. Fortified wines, such as Port and Sherry, can reach 18% to 19% ABV. The 750ml simply states the amount of wine in the bottle.

Celebrity cruisers can learn more about wine and reading labels from one of our many on-ship classes, such as Wine Appreciation 10. In addition we employ over 3,500 certified sommeliers and servers who are always on hand to assist.

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