How to Read a Wine Label

First, do you like the way it looks? While this is not important to the taste of the wine, it can be part of the overall enjoyment.

Now, down to brass tacks as it were.

Royal Bitch wineThe most important things on the label are the: grape (Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, etc), the winemaker (Ste Michelle, Little Penguin, Toad Hollow, etc), and the vintage (2008, 2010).

  • the grape because it will immediately tell you whether it's the type of wine you like or want to drink,
  • the winemaker because some are good and some are not,
  • the vintage because some years are better than others.

"Table wine," is a blend of different grapes from different vintages; that doesn't mean it's not good. "California wine" can mean a blend of grapes from anywhere in the state, not just where they grow best. If a wine's from Napa or Sonoma, it will say so.

Don't worry about words like "reserve" and "private selection," Basically, they mean nothing; they're just marketing ploys. Pretty much the same for bin or bottle numbers. However, if you find a bin number from a particular vintner that consistently yields a pleasant wine, time after time, by all means, seek it out.

Labels are like sign posts: they can help you.
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