How to Read a Wine Label

A wine label can tell you everything you need to know about your luxury vintage. With this in mind, this week the Ideal Wine Company explains how to read a wine label.

Assess your vintage

Here at the Ideal Wine Company, we would say that our Hermitage La Chapelle 1985 is a fantastic example of a classic red wine. It’s a structured, intriguing vintage which boasts subtle notes of ground coffee, and light aromas of truffle and cherry fruit.

Yet we truly believe that as a consumer, you need to assess the quality of any vintage, including the Hermitage La Chappelle 1985, before you add it to your wine collection. This is why you need to know how to be able to read a wine label. These labels, especially on French vintages, contain all the information you need to assess the quality of a bottle of fine wine.

Five label reading tips

However, the average wine label holds a lot of information, which pieces do you need to read to assess the quality of a bottle of wine? Here are five tips that’ll help you read the label:

  • Know the grapes: Different grapes have different qualities. If you look at the grapes, you’ll be able to determine how the vintage should taste, as well as whether it’s a blend. We’d suggest that you do your research so you can determine which varieties of grape you prefer.


  • Check the vintage: If a vineyard produces one pinot noir in 1985, and another in 1995, chances are they won’t taste the same because they’ve been exposed to different growing conditions. If you check the vintage of the bottle when you read the label, you can determine whether your bottle was produced in one of the vineyard’s better years.


  • Think about alcohol content: It’s absolutely vital that you check the alcohol content if you’re buying the wine for a dinner party. If a wine’s alcohol content is 16% or more, it shouldn’t be paired with food, as it can prove too overpowering and damage the flavour of your lovingly prepared dish.


  • Don’t be fooled by reserve: The Ideal Wine Company has previously explained that there are certain differences between old and new world wines. They use the word ‘reserve’ on labels in different ways. In the old world, reserve refers to a superior vintage, whilst in the new world it’s often meaningless!


  • Learn about the region: There’s a reason that it’s common practise to refer to wines by their region of origin on labels. The region has a big impact on the quality of the vintage. If you check the region when you read the label you can learn about the wine’s growing conditions, development techniques, and traditions which have shaped its production and so much more.


Read the label

At the end of the day, you should never take somebody’s word for it. We would always advise you to read a wine’s label before you buy it. This way you can use the information on the label to determine whether this is the type of wine you want to serve at your next dinner party, or store in your ever-growing wine collection!


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