Reading Wine Labels
Labels tend to be more informative — and more honest — than some of them once were. More stringent laws in the wine-producing areas, and insistence of some countries (like Britain) on displaying the country of origin have helped to bring a new respectability even to the cheapest wines. Names of well-known producers give evidence of quality, too — Calvet or Cordier on a Bordeaux bottle, Langenbach or Deinhard on Moselle and Hock bottles, for example.
There are four types of label for Bordeaux wines:
1. Label for chateau-bottled wine will carry the words ‘Mise en bouteilles’.
2. Label for wine bottled by the shipper will carry the name of the wine and the words ‘bottled by …’ (the label will be to the shipper’s own design).
3. Label for Monopole or registered private brand — the shipper’s own blend of various wines from a particular region, on which his reputation for discrimination and honesty is based.
4. District or commune label. It is easy at first to confuse this with the chateau-bottled label. A label saying, for example ‘St. Julien’ means ‘the wine in this bottle bottle came from the St. Julien district’ and the wine will not necessarily come from one vineyard, but be a blend from several made by the shipper and the quality will depend entirely on the shipper. Once again, find out from your wine shop who the most reliable shippers are. Burgundy labels follow a different pattern. They give the name of the vineyard if it is famous, the name of the district if that is more famous, and if neither is well-known, the wine will simply be described as ‘Cote de Nuits’ or ‘Cote de Beaune’.
There are four types corresponding to the Bordeaux system, except that the word ‘Estate’ is used instead of ‘Chateau’. German labels must also give vintage date, name of district where the grapes (or at least 50% of them) were grown, and the name of the shipper. They may also carry the words ‘Fuder No….’ meaning the number of the cask from which the wine was taken.