How to Read Wine Labels

Sommelier Joe Campanale looks at wine bottle labeling and shares some of his tips on understanding its three distinct styles. More information is not necessarily good information, but Joe shows you how to discern between quality details and flashy marketing.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Joe Campanale. You are watching Today, we are going to talk about reading wine labels. You know it can be very confusing if you pick up a bottle of wine trying to figure out what exactly is inside the bottle. So there are three general types of wine labels. And if you understand the three different types it will take you a long way to guessing what's inside the bottle. The first I'd call a new world wine label. New world meaning anything that's in North American, South America, really anything that's not in Europe. Although this is a wine made from Europe it's really made in a style that's meant to accommodate and relate to the American market. The big thing to note here is that the name of the grape will be prominent on the label. Here it says, Pinot Noir. The producer is Stadlmann and here's there's a vintage 2008. So all vintage means is the year in which the grapes were harvested. And this word classic it really doesn't mean anything at all. It's sort of a fantasy term that they've created to help sell the wine. On every bottle they have to note the country of origin. In this case it says product of Austria. The size of the bottle. Here it's 750 milliliters. The alcohol content, when it's imported from Europe it has to be rounded to the point five. And for dry red wines like this one you usually see anywhere between 12 percent and 15 percent. In this case it's 12.5 percent alcohol, so a lower alcohol wine. And then there's a government warning which is regulated on all wines imported and distributed to the United States. The final thing you'll note is that it says contains sulfites. All wines have this label on them that says contains sulfites as sulfites are a natural by product of the fermentation process. Some people think that red wines have more sulfites then white but this isn't correct at all. Red wines are actually a lot more stable and since sulfites are an antioxidant they don't add as many sulfites to red wines. So this type of label I'd call an old world style label. In an old world style label the Appalachian is prominent. And in an Appalachian a consortium of producers regulates the grapes that are grown, the area that they can be grown in. And how the wine is created and aged. In this case the Appalachian is called Brunello Di Montalcino. Again we have the vintage 2005 and the producer. One other thing to note for imported wines is that all imported wines will say the name of the importer on the back of the label. Getting to know a few of your favorite importers is a really great tool to understanding what the wine is going to be like. Generally importers tend to have their own specific palette and import wines that taste more or less in the same style. Here it says imported by Castle Brands. Also you'll note that this has an alcohol content of 13.5 which is a little bit higher then the wine we had before. So it's just a little bit stronger. Now the final style for a label of wine gives you very little information at all. Here we can see all it says is a big fantasy name Hochar. And then it says the producer that it's produced by and the vintage. And that it's a product of Lebanon. But it's not going to tell you anything about where it's grown or what the grapes are. In this case you really have to ask your store clerk or your sommelier and do some research on your own. So these are three typical examples of wine bottle labels. But remember if you have any questions don't be afraid to ask. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Joe Campanale. Catch me again on

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