How to Read a Wine Label

French, Italian, and German labels can be cryptic. Wine expert Rebecca Chapa shows you how to identify the producer, region, and varietal.

Released on 11/11/2008

Credits

Starring: Rebecca Chapa

Transcript

00:00
(theme music)
00:17
When you're in your local retailer looking for a wine
00:19
to buy, it's often very confusing with all the different
00:21
labels, but a lot of those labels can actually give you
00:24
a lot of information about what's in the bottle.
00:26
The easiest to look at tend to be the labels from
00:29
New World regions, such as Napa, South Africa,
00:32
Chile, and Australia.
00:35
A lot of those places they give you very clear information,
00:37
the name of the producer in this case is Ehlers Estate.
00:40
We also have the name of the variety or varietal,
00:43
which is Cabernet Sauvignon,
00:45
and we have the vintage or the year in which the grapes
00:47
were harvested, and also the region.
00:50
One of the difficult things though is when you venture
00:52
outside of the United States or some of the New World areas
00:55
and go to places like France where the labeling can be
00:58
very very complicated.
01:00
In France wines are labeled many different ways.
01:02
Sometimes they label them by the vineyard name,
01:05
sometimes they label them by the producer name,
01:07
and sometimes they make it easy for us and label
01:10
by the name of the variety.
01:12
In Burgundy the most important thing is the place where
01:15
it was grown and not necessarily the producer.
01:18
Many different producers could have a piece of one vineyard
01:21
and produce a wine like this called Puligny-Montrachet,
01:24
that means it comes from the town called Puligny-Montrachet.
01:28
You'll notice that the label doesn't even say
01:30
what type of grape it is.
01:31
In Burgundy predominantly the only white grape that's grown
01:34
is Chardonnay, so you have to just know that.
01:37
Other regions of France, they label things differently.
01:41
In Bordeaux for example they label by the name
01:43
of the chateau or the producer.
01:45
The chateau could have many different vineyards all over
01:48
the area of Margaux which is the sub-region,
01:51
so Margaux would be sort of like Napa Valley.
01:54
And luckily the people in Alsace have a very different idea.
01:57
This area used to be part of Germany and they're
02:00
very very clear about how they label their wines.
02:03
So for example, this wine is a Riesling, the producer's name
02:07
is Hugel and what's nice about this is that if you know
02:09
Riesling as a grape you have an idea that you might
02:12
really enjoy this wine.
02:14
So I hope I made it a little bit easier for you
02:16
to understand wine labels.
02:18
What's great is you can ask for help at anytime from your
02:21
sommelier or your wine merchant but just by getting
02:24
to know these wines and getting to know their labels
02:26
you can get a lot of information about what's going
02:28
to be inside.
02:29
For more information on wines join us at epicurious.com.
02:33
(theme music)