wine labels

What You Should Know About Grape Wine Labels by Department of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Americans are rapidly surpassing their European counterparts in their eagerness to learn more about the wines they buy. As the U.S. wine industry has developed, matured and perfected the delicate art of wine making, it has been able to offer a choice of wines to suit every palate – and every pocketbook. As Americans become more adventuresome in their wine selections, they look to the label for more information. What makes one wine different from another? What is the dominant grape in the wine? Where is it grown? What can the label tell the consumer? Although Federal regulations are quite detailed, this article contains enough basic information to assist the consumer in making an informed choice when buying wine. This article discusses wine made from grapes, wine also is made from fruit and other agricultural products.

The brand name is a name used by the bottler to identify the product. Any brand name is acceptable if it does not mislead the consumer.

A vintage date on the label indicates that 95% or more of the wine is produced from grapes grown in that year. If a vintage date is shown on the label, an appellation of origin, other than a country, will also be shown.

Appellation of origin is simply another name for the place in which the dominant grapes used in the wine are grown. It can be the name of a country, state, county or geographic region called a viticultural area. A country, state or county appellation on the label means that at least 75% of the wine is produced from grapes grown in the place named. If two or three states or counties are listed as an appellation of origin, 100% of the wine is made from grapes grown in the place named.

A U.S. viticultural area is a well-defined grape-growing region with soil, climate, history and geographic features which set it apart from the surrounding areas. A viticultural area appellation on the label indicates that 85% or more of the wine is produced from grapes grown in the particular area.

Varietals designations are the names of the dominant grapes used in the wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Seyval, Riesling, Cayuga White, Pinot Noir, Baco Noir, Chancellor and Chenin Blanc are examples of grape varieties. A varietal designation on the label requires an appellation of origin and means that at least 75% of that grape variety is used in the wine. Wine made from “Vitis labrusca” grapes – such as Concord – is an exception because of the grape’s intense flavor. These wines must contain a minimum of 51% of the grape variety, and it will be so stated on the label. If the label carries no percentage statement, the wine must contain at least 75% of the “labrusca variety.” Wine labels are not required to bear a varietal designation. Other designations are used which identify the wine without label information on the type of grape used or where it was grown. Examples are Red Wine, White Wine, Table Wine. Designations such as Chablis or Chianti indicate wines similar to the wines originally made in geographic regions indicated by those names. Chablis was originally a product of France and Chianti, a product of Italy. Such wines must include an appellation of origin to indicate the true place of origin. Some wines are designated with distinctive names which are permissable only on specific wines from a particular place or region within the country of origin. For example, Pommard from France and Rudesheimer from Germany.

Names or trade names and addresses of bottler or importer.

A statement of alcohol content in percent by volume appears on most labels. As an alternative some bottlers prefer to label wine with an alcohol content between 7 and 14 percent as “Table Wine” or “Light Wine.”

“Estate Bottled” on the label means that 100% of the wine came from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by the winery, located in the viticultural area. The winery then crushes and ferments the grapes, finishes, ages, processes and bottles the wine in one continuous operation.

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Database used with permission of Vintage Wine Lover’s Software.

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