Wine labels give the winemaker an opportunity to suggest the uniqueness of what's inside the bottle. Label styles range from the required information to artistic paintings and drawings, but federal and state regulations require certain information to appear. Understanding how to decipher the required information can help you decide which wines you are most likely to enjoy.
1. Brand/producer name
2. Vintage, the year the grapes were grown—wines must contain a minimum of 95 percent of the stated vintage if the appellation is an AVA, and a minimum of 85 percent for appellations that are a county, state, multi-county or multi-state.
3. Type of wine—this may be varietal, generic, or proprietary. Varietal wines, like the Chardonnay above, must contain at least 75 percent of the stated wine varietal.
4. Place of origin/geographical growing area—to state “California,” 100 percent of the wine must come from grapes grown within the state; to use a county name, 75 percent of the grapes must come from that county; and to use an AVA (a federally approved American Viticultural Area) 85 percent of the grapes must come from the defined area.
5. Individual vineyard—at least 95 percent of the wine in the bottle must have come from grapes grown in the named vineyard.
6. Alcohol content—wines designated as “Table Wine” (7 to 14 percent alcohol) are not required to show alcohol content. Otherwise, these wines with 7-14 percent state the alcohol content. For wine that exceeds 14 percent alcohol, the label must reveal that information.
7. Sulfite statement—sulfur dioxide is a natural by-product of winemaking, and has been used for centuries as a preservative in virtually all wines. Federal law now requires that the label reveal that wine contains sulfites.
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