Ask Missa: How to Read a Wine Label
Written by Missa Capozzo, Director of Sommology on August 22, 2018
Choosing and purchasing wines based upon the label is something we all do. If there’s a cute dog on the wine label, I’m buying it without even knowing what’s actually in the bottle! Then it becomes somewhat of a gamble once we open that mystery bottle when we get home. Likewise, ordering wine in a restaurant can be incredibly intimidating, as we don’t even have cute labels to choose from! There are, however, some things you can look for on both the bottle’s label and the wine list that will clue you in to what is in that bottle. A simple way to remember what to look for? The “three Vs.”
Vintage is the year that is printed on the label and it can be found on a restaurant wine list, as well. The vintage year is important because this is the year the grapes were grown and harvested. The vintage tells the story of the weather conditions when these grapes were growing. Those weather conditions are directly reflected in the wine. Note that not all wines have vintages, as some are blends from various vintages.
Vineyard refers to a wine’s appellation or region. The vineyard (or area) the wine is from tells the story of the terroir the wine came from. Terroir is everything from the soil to the weather conditions to topography and geographical location. A Finger Lakes wine, for instance, will taste nothing like a California wine of the same grape because the terroir is so different. When you know the vineyard, you can begin to understand the story behind the wine.
The varietal of the wine is the type of grape it is made from. There are tens of thousands of different grape varieties, all of which have their own unique flavors, aromas, and characteristics. It can be easy to grab the wrong varietal if you’re not paying close attention. You want to be sure you that when you purchase or order a Riesling, you aren’t presented with a Sauvignon Blanc!
When you consider all the three Vs together, you will have the knowledge you need to select a wine you know you will love!
Which of the “three Vs” matter most to you when choosing a wine? Go to our Facebook page and let us know. Or, ask your own wine question for our next edition of Ask Missa!