How to Read a Wine Label

Oct 6, 2023by Andrew Lowry

Let's see if we can deconstruct this complex label...

Old World Wine:

Old World wine labels tend to be a little more complex. The main reason is that they often don't explicitly state the name of the grape! The wine drinker has to know, or the wine shop employee has to tell them, that the wine they want from Chablis is made of Chardonnay and not Sauvignon Blanc and never will change!

Working through the wine label above from top to bottom:

  • Chablis Grand Cru: Chablis is the name of the wine region (in France called an AOC) and Grand Cru is the quality designation of the wine (the highest for Chablis). Not always will these be grouped together like this; sometimes they will be on separate lines.
  • Apellation Chablis Grand Cru Controlee: This certifies that it originates from a Grand Cru site in Chablis and adheres to the winemaking standards of the region.
  • Bougros: This is the specific vineyard, or 'climat' in Chablis, and is only 15 hectares.
  • Cote Bouguerots: This is the producers name for this specific wine of his
  • Domaine William Fevre: This is the producer. He makes wine from all over Burgundy so Domaine means this comes from the main house in Chablis and from their own climat.
  • 2008: The year the grapes in this bottle were harvested (called the vintage).
  • Estate grown, produced, and bottled by William Fevre, Chablis, France: This says that all fruit was grown on William Fevre's property and that it was vinified and bottled on site.
  • Produced in France, Product of France: Legal terms mandated by French law for consumables. Shows wine was made in France.
  • White Burgundy Wine: This is actually a little confusing because in Burgundy more than one white grape is allowed to make white wine, but in Chablis, only one grape is allowed and that is Chardonnay. So this line is misleading, but I'm sure it's a legal term necessary for all white wine coming from the larger region of Burgundy.

New World Wine:

Not going to go as in-depth for this one, but new-world labeling tends to make it much easier for the consumer to know what they are buying. New world labeling most often states the grape the wine was made of (only has to be 85% of that grape in some circumstances), where the majority of grapes were harvested (either as broad as 'California', or as small as 'La Riconada Vineyard), and of course, the name of the producer and the vintage if 85%-95% of the grapes used to make the wine were harvested in the same year. See our labeling laws blog post for more about that stuff.

Nowadays though, super new world labels won't have a single thing on the front except for some trendy art. They just want you to pick it up because it looks cool!

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