What follows is a quick guide to what you ought to look for and some of the terms you might come across and their meaning. When you look at a wine label you should be looking for:
The name of the producer and the vintage. It sounds glaringly obvious doesn't it but it's amazing how quickly you can find yourself with a bottle on your rack you weren’t quite expecting! Producer names are vitally important because you’ll find in some areas certain surnames are very common and they only way to differentiate the wines is either with forenames or individual estate names.
Be wary… sometimes less good wines trade on the fact that they share a similar name with a much better estate. Vintage is important because they are unique and whilst one year might be suitable for 10 years ageing, the following could have been an annus horribilis that either needs drunk up straight away, or not bought at all.
The overall impression of the label. If it's come from a poor cellar the label can tell you about possible problems such as damp that may have adversely affected the wine. Also, it pays to keep an eye out for spelling mistakes or any other distortion that could raise questions about the authenticity of the wine. These are especially important when you’re away from home. A sight of the label is your opportunity to reject a bottle before it's uncorked!
Some common wine terms and what they mean..
- Mis en bouteilles au château / à la propriété means simply that the wines was bottled at the château or property.
- Grand Cru and Permier Cru tell you about a wine’s classification within the appellation it is made. These wines would typically be superior and more expensive than ‘village’ wines.
- Brut is seen on champagne bottles and tells you that it’s a dry wine.
- Sec or demi-sec tell you that the wine is dry or medium dry.
- Moelleux means sweet.
- Vendanges Tardives is seen on labels when the wine is made from late-harvested grapes.
- Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée is a certification of a wine’s origin. Wines that have an AOC are bound by certain qualitative restrictions that must be adhered to.
- The AP number on German wine bottles is a unique number issued to all quality wines
- Gutsabfüllung is the German term for ‘estate bottled’ and is interchangeable with the somewhat lengthier erzeugerabfüllung.
- Qualitätswein mit Prädikat is the German wording for ‘quality wine' and like the French AOC the wines must meet certain criteria to be labelled as such.
- Riserva (Italy) - in Chianti this would be a wine that had been aged for three years prior to release.
- Denominazione de Origine Controllata e Garantita is the Italian equivalent of the French AOC.
- Denoinación de Origen Calificada is the Spanish equivalent of the French AOC.
- Gran Reserva wines in Spain have had at least five years bottle ageing before being released for sale.
For further information on Bordeaux wine labels, visit:
For further information on what you might find on Burgundy wine labels, visit:
For further information on German wine labels, visit: