Reading a wine label goes beyond the label design, in fact, at times you should ignore how beautiful the label looks and focus on what it says!
The label on a worth-considering-buying wine should at the very least reveal the name of the wine and where the grapes came from. The label may also include information about when the grapes were harvested (Vintage), the identity of the person or company behind the wine, the wine's alcohol content, and the bottle's net contents. Some of this information appears on the front label, some on the "back label,".
Information about the wine maker is the most important piece of information on the label, because the quality of the wine depends to a great extent on the reputation of the winery. You might need to do a bit of research of your own to decide that. For example, you might decide to buy wine only from producers that use traditional methods of fermentation or those who adopt nature preservation methods in the whole process. As a matter of rule, the better wineries also have a distinctive style, making the selection process much easier.
The back label indicates the extent of the producer's connection with the wine. The designation to look for is "grown, produced, and bottled by," which guarantees that the winery named on the label grew the grapes and produced and bottled the wine, making it a complete estate wine. If the label reads "produced and bottled by," the named winery crushed the grapes and made the wine. However, if the wine was fermented elsewhere, the phrase on the label may say "cellared and bottled by." The phrase "made and bottled by" reveals that the winery used grapes it crushed, along with wine that was fermented elsewhere.
If the name of a grape variety appears on the label, the wine was made entirely or predominately from that grape. (Negromaro, Amarone, Barolo, Sauvignon, Pinot Griggio…). Sometimes a wine is made of more than one grape such as the Cantine mehnir’s Salice Salience Riserva- 80% Negromaro 20% Malavasia.
You Might also find IGP, DOP, DOPG acronyms. This usually is a good thing as it guarantees that this wine is made using a grape from a typical region. More on this at a later date.
The date (Vintage) tells you the year in which the grapes used to make the wine were harvested. If no vintage date appears on the label or neckband, the wine was made from mixed vintages or might be of lower quality. Vintage can be a very important piece of information, or it can mean relatively little. Read “What does Wine Vintage mean?” in a separate article on this page.
Some labels might also state special designations that refer to production techniques, such as barrel fermented or unfiltered. Other terms, such as reserve, private reserve, special selection, barrel select, old vines, and estate bottled, indicate a qualitative distinction. For example, in some parts of Europe the legal (regulated) designation “reserve” means a guaranteed higher standard wine, however if you are choosing an American wine, it might not be the case as it is not a legal term there and can be used at the producer’s discretion and as a marketing gimmick.