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Can you explain the information on a wine label?

Can you explain the information on a wine label?

wine labels "What are the important things I should know about the wine labels? I see estate bottled, red table wine, etc. Do they mean anything? Thanks!"
– S.E., Riverside, CA

The United States labeling laws are regulated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, a.k.a., the BATF. Labeling requirements vary from country to country; certain information is governed by local authorities at the point of sale. Wines made in one country will have different label requirements if and when they are marketed and sold in another country.

Most wine bottles have two labels: the front label and the back label. The front is generally to get your attention and the back label may have descriptors and serving suggestions. These labels are not governed by the law, and here are the minimum label requirements for wines made and sold in the United States:

1. Brand name = the owner's name, winery name, growing area or a trademark name.

2. The type of wine or designation. There are 9 classification categories. Most of the wines we consume are Class 1, Table Wines.

  • Class 1 wines have alcohol content 7%-14%.
  • Class 2 is sparkling wine.
  • Class 3 is carbonated wine injected with carbon dioxide.
  • Class 4 is citrus wines.
  • Class 5 is fruit wines other than grapes or citrus.
  • Class 6 is wines made from agricultural products such as vegetables.
  • Class 7 is aperitif wines, wines with brandy, alcohol and/or herbs and more than 14% alcohol.
  • Class 8 is imitation wines and
  • Class 9 is retsina wines.

    3. The name and address of the bottler, producer and country of origin. The words "bottled by" must precede the name and address of the bottler. "Produced and bottled by" means the bottler fermented and clarified at least 75% of the wine. "Made and bottled by" means the winery fermented and clarified at least 10% of the wine. "Blended and bottled" meant the winery mixed the wine with another wine of the same type and class at the location it was bottled. The country of origin is the country where the wine is produced, but not necessarily where the grapes in the wine were grown.

    4. Appellation of origin. This is the place or region where the grapes were grown. An appellation must be on the label if the wine is labeled with a vintage (which is not a mandatory law). If it says "California," 100% of the grapes must be from California. Most other U.S. states require only 75%. If it states a specific region, i.e. Napa Valley, 85% of the grapes must be from there.

    5. Alcohol content.

    6. Net volume of contents, i.e. 750 ml.

    7. Declaring sulfites of wine with 10 ppm or higher. "Organic" wines have no added sulfites. "Made with organically grown grapes" have more sulfites than "Organic" wines.

    8. Government health warning. Here are some NOT mandatory terms you may see on a label: the vintage, the varietal, the wine name, the quality of the wine, the vineyard, "Estate Bottled", and special designates such as "Reserve" or "Special Selection". If the vintage is stated, all grapes must be harvested that year. If the varietal is stated, the wine must be 75% of that varietal.