How to read wine labels in Australia

Wine Labels – Next time you pick up a bottle, check for these 5 things!

Angelica Nohra

Wine Importer | Wine List Consultant | Speaker   

Are you ready to try a range of different wines apart from the basic Shiraz and Chardonnay but are nervous about where to start? Here are 5 tips to reading wine labels from around the world.

  1. Who is the producer? This can be obvious splashed across the top of a wine label or more subtly at the bottom. Eg. Take a look at Tignanello or Ornallaia. Tenuta San Guido’s logo is only very small at the bottom of the label. Some however, such as the Sensi “Collezione” Pinot Grigio shows Sensi has the wine producer before you scroll your eyes down to the varietal
  2. What region is it from? This will let you know where the grapes were sourced. This can be broad such as ‘The Great Southern” or “South Eastern Australia” or more regionally specific Eg. Barossa Valley or Margaret River in terms of Australian wine. Little fact; When you see the word Barossa on a wine label, it doesn’t necessarily mean the wines come from the Barossa Valley specifically. Barossa can be used when grapes are sourced from the eden and clare as well.
  3. Whats the varietal or appellation? This will tell you what grapes have been used. E.g. Shiraz or Merlot. If you can’t see a varietal, look for what is called an Appellation e.g. Bolgheri, Priorat or Bordeaux. There are 15 countries that have appellation control so you may need to research what that region is famous for as the varietals wont be listed.
  4. Does it have a vintage? Have you ever noticed a little NV on a bottle of champagne? That suggests it is a Non Vintage. Any wines that come from a multi vintage are usually lower value wines and have a consistent flavour no matter when it’s out on the market. To understand this, have you ever purchased a bottle of Yellowtail Merlot? They do not have a vintage listed and the wine tastes the same no matter when you try it.
  5. Whats the alcohol volume? This may not seem that important but it can really help you understand whether a wine will be big and rich or quite soft. It also says a lot about where the wines come from. Many european wine regions will sit their every day drinking wine between 12.5-13.5%. Higher quality european wines will be 13.5% and above. In Australia, some wines can have 15-16% alcohol. We find the higher the alcohol, the more fruit forward a wine will be but as always, there are exceptions to the rule.

There is obviously more information on a wine label and it gets more complicated based on where a wine is from but we encourage you to use this as a starting point!

Check out some of these wine label types below!   

Sensi "Soro" Toscana Rosso IGT

1. Producer: Sensi 

2. Region: Tuscany, Italy

3. Varietal or Appellation: You can suspect predominately Sangiovese. 

4. Yes, it has a vintage. 

Bonus to improve your wine game: Ask your self.... was that a good year for wine in Tuscany. A quick google will confirm this for you! 

5. 13.5% - Varies depending on year of production. (All bottle must have this by law in Australia) 

Marrenon Les Grains Merlot IGP Méditerranée

1. Producer: Marrenon 

2. Region: Luberon, Southern France. 

3. Varietal or Appellation: Luberon is the appellation, but many styles are grown here, so the varietal is labelled on the bottle - Merlot. 

4. Vintage: No Vintage. The wine will remain the same taste each year. 

5. 13.5% 

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