How To Read A Wine Label: New World Style

Learn How To Read A New World Wine Label

So you’ve got this “friend” who is a wine lover and you want to impress this person with a great bottle of wine, hoping to win some brownie points. You’re not wine savvy in the least, but you kind of have an idea that wine is made from grapes, maybe. You don’t just want to grab anything but there you are, standing in the wine shop looking at the wall of wines that surround you and you’re feeling a little stupid because you just don’t know what you’re looking at, let alone where to begin.

No sweat. This is where you learn how to read a wine label and get to know at the very least what you’re looking at.

Before we start you should know that wine labels vary from country to country with the information they carry; each country has its own set of rules as to what information has to be labeled. But you can pick up some basic wine knowledge from each country that will help you learn what’s in every bottle.

To make it easy on you I will start with New World wines as these typically print basic information, like what grape was used to make the wine, right on the front label, for example a bottle of Merlot will say Merlot. Other info will site specifics such as producer, location of bottling, vintage, alcohol content and so on.

New World Wine Labels

New World wines include the wine regions of the southern hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America) and North America. Most of these countries follow U.S. standards for labeling so this will make it easy for you to learn how to read all New World wine labels.

7 things that will always be on a US wine label:

  1. Producer or Name: ex. Earthquake Zin
  2. Type of Wine or Wine Varietal: ex. Zinfandel
  3. Alcohol Content: ex. 15%
  4. Name and Address of Bottler: found on the back of the label
  5. Net Content of Bottle: ex. 750ml (standard bottle size)
  6. Sulfites Message: whether it contains sulfites or not
  7. Health Warning: ex. wine may cause you to live a good life

How to read a New World Wine Label
How to read a New World Wine Label

In addition to the required info, wine labels can impart other basic wine knowledge about a wine like:

  • Vintage (the year the wine was harvested and crushed) which if labeled means that 95% of the wine was harvested in that particular year
  • Appellation: the location origin of the wine (in the Earthquake label the appellation is Lodi; the word ‘appellation’ will not always be printed)
  • Vineyard Name: if the wine comes from a specific vineyard
  • “Estate Bottled”: means that 100% of the grapes used were harvested, crushed, fermented, finished, aged and bottled the wine at the winery location
  • Reserve, Special Selection, Old Vine: means the wines are unique in some way (ex. ‘old vine’ means the grapes used came from vines 30 years old or more)
  • Produced by: at least 75% of the wine was crushed by the listed producer
  • Made by: 10% of the wine was crushed by the listed producer
  • Cellared by, Selected by, Vinted by: means less than 10% of the wine was crushed by the listed producer

That’s it. That’s all there is to reading New World wine labels. Next time I’ll go into Old World labels. These are a bit more involved as you go deeper into appellations and styles. If you’ve ever seen a French wine label it can look rather busy with print. A lot of French wines are blends so the wines tend to be distinguished by region and vineyard rather than varietal, which means a lot of regions have their own label restrictions. I’ll help you learn how to read wine labels from the Old World in the next post regardless.

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