What information you can get from a red wine label? Befor you taste a red wine, you still have many other ways to get the approx taste of the wine:
- Producer or Name The producer name is either obvious or in small text at the top or the bottom of the label (such as many French wine label examples). This is who made the wine. It’s important to note that some American wine labels that only have a Wine Name (such as Apothic Red) are branded wines from larger wine companies. Apothic Red is a branded wine by E&J Gallo–the producer.
- Region The region indicates from where the grapes were sourced to produce the wine. A wine from a larger (read: more vague) region is typically a value wine whereas a wine from a specific vineyard site often indicates a higher quality regional designation (i.e. “California” vs. “Santa Rita Hills” AVA). If a wine is from a specific vineyard site, that site will be indicated in quotations (i.e. “Les Suchots”) or located right below the region designation (ie Vosne Romanee Les Suchots). Generally, as you narrow the source to a specific site, the quality level becomes more refined and the price increases.
- Variety or Appellation The variety refers to what grape or grapes are used in making the wine–Merlot for example, or CMS Blend (Cab, Merlot, Syrah). Many blends will not reveal the constituent grapes nor the percentage that each makes of the whole. If there is no varietal given, look for the Appellation, which can give you clues to what varietals were used based on the rules governing that region. There are 15 nations with officially regulated appellations, though the strictness of the rules and what matters varies wildly among them.
- Vintage or Non-Vintage (NV) The year that the grapes were harvested is the vintage. The vintage tells a lot about a wine if you are familiar with vintage variations. As a general rule, multi-vintage wines or “NV” wines are lower value wines, because they have the ease of pulling wine from multiple vintages to control the flavor.
- Alcohol by Volume (ABV) The alcohol level actually says a lot about a wine. Many European wine regions only allow their highest quality wines to have 13.5% ABV and above. In America, ABVs can be quite high (up to 17% on some dry wines) and the alcohol level is an indication of how rich/big the wine may taste. Many higher alcohol wines are made from riper grapes and tend to have more fruit forward flavors. Again, this is a generalization and there are exceptions to the rule.
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