The Language of Wine: Decoding Wine Labels and Descriptions

Several bottles of wine are lined up on a table, showcasing the language and decoding of wine labels and descriptions.

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a wine label, feeling like you’re reading a language you’ve never seen before, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to decode wine labels to help you select wines with confidence.

Whether you’re new to the wine scene or a seasoned connoisseur, understanding the language of wine labels and descriptions is a skill that can enhance your appreciation and selection process.

Wine Labels 101

When you look at a wine label, you can get a hint of what the wine will be like when you open and take a sip. Getting the hang of reading this info helps you pick out bottles faster and get a better idea of what flavours you enjoy. Most wine labels will have the following information:

  1. The label’s title often reveals the grape variety or blend that makes up the wine. Think Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot.
  2. The label will tell you about the wine’s origin and birthplace, the unique blend of soil, climate, and tradition that nurtured those grapes, and about the winemakers .The winery’s name might not just signify its origin but also its commitment to craftsmanship and quality.
  3. The year (vintage) on the label signifies the harvest year of the grapes. Certain years might produce exceptional wines due to weather conditions, while others showcase the winemaker’s artistry in challenging circumstances.
  4. The alcohol percentage, which tells you the wine’s potency. Lighter wines generally hover around 11-12%, while robust reds can reach upwards of 15%.
Understanding Wine Descriptions

Now let’s take a closer look at some common descriptions used on wine labels and what they mean.

  1. Aromas and Bouquets: When descriptions mention “blackberries,” “violets,” or “citrus zest,” they’re referring to the wine’s aromas. Bouquet, on the other hand, refers to the aromas that develop during ageing.
  2. Taste Profiles: Words like “oak,” “tannin,” and “acidity” describe the wine’s textures and taste profiles. “Full-bodied” signals a rich, weighty experience, while “crisp” indicates a lively, refreshing sip. Words like ‘silky’ and ‘velvety’ are also used to describe this.
  3. Sweetness Spectrum: Wines vary from bone-dry to dessert-sweet. Terms like “dry,” “off-dry,” and “sweet” indicate the sweetness of a wine.
  4. Ageing Potential: If a wine description mentions “ageing potential,” it is suggesting that that particular bottle will taste even better with proper cellaring.
  5. Some descriptions may also suggest food pairings to complement the wine.

Paying attention to these descriptions when drinking wine will help you to identify and develop your wine palate. Once you’ve tasted a few different types and taken note of your preferences, you can build a beautiful collection of wine that is personalised to your taste.

Remember, the best wine is the one you enjoy. If you find something you love, keep track of it with cellartags.

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