Here is the second video in the Happy Hour series about wine. This time Joe and Kris are taking about wine labels. Did you know that there was such a difference between European Wine and the rest of the world when it comes to labels? We didn’t.
How to read a wine label – I Know Jax
I’m not breaking new ground when I say that wine labels are so bloody difficult to make sense of! The good news is that Californian wine labels are, for the most part, much easier to wrap your head around than European labels. However, they’re still kind-of a minefield!
The following list will help to shed some light on what all that lingo means and hopefully guide you in your wine buying decisions…at least with Californian wines!
This is obviously the percentage of alcohol by volume of the wine. California wineries are allowed to label with a 1.5% variation in alcohol, either high or lower. This is variation is allowed since it’s impossible to accurately predict the final alcohol content of a wine in advance of its bottling. It’s also worth noting that wines above 14% ABV pay higher taxes than wines with less than 14% ABV. For this reason, wineries will “take extra steps” to keep their wines at (or at least labeled at) 14% ABV or lower.
AVA (American Viticultural Area)
Examples of AVAs include Napa, Sonoma, Carneros, Alexander Valley etc. If a bottle names an “AVA” on its label, 85% of the grapes must have come from that area. With the label on the right, the AVA is Clarksburg.
Indicates that the winery did indeed bottle the wine, but other 3rd parties grew the grapes, crushed, fermented, finished, and aged the wine. This designation is usually only seen on some of the larger wine brands.
A Simple “California” Designation
This one is kind of tricky, but stay with me because it’s EXTREMELY important!
If a bottle simply states that it hails from “California,” 100% of the grapes must come from California; however, only a minimum of 75% of the wine has to be made from the named grape.
Pinot Noir is a notoriously tough (and therefore expensive) grape to grow. For that reason, you can be assured that not many producers will be making their simple “California” labeled wines with much more than the 75% grape minimum mandated by State wine law. They usually blend in other grapes such as Petite Sirah in order to make up the remaining 25% to give the wine color and body.
There’s nothing wrong with these types of wines, and they’re usually a great value; but at least you know know what you’re getting for your $s the wine comes from a more specific place!
“Estate Bottled” means that 100% of the wine has come from grapes grown on land owned by the winery, located in the named wine growing region. The winery then crushes and ferments the grapes, finishes, ages, processes and bottles the wine, basically meaning that they have full control from start to finish. Sometimes this will also be seen as “grown, produced and bottled by.”
Watch this episode to find out more!
Kris Chislett – JacksonvilleWineGuide.com