We’ve all seen Mean Girls. We know labels exist, and we pretty much know why–who wants to eat lunch with the weirdos–or in the case of wine, drink Franzia or Arbor Mist, or counterfeit junk from vintages that don’t exist? In case anyone has forgotten how the pre-drug addiction Lindsay Lohan experienced labels, I’ve included the critical piece of Paramount’s masterpiece here:
Wine labels can similarly be mapped out, thus removing the nervous breakdowns that regularly occur at wine stores. Below the elements
that confused the hell out of me make a difference (aka not the band geeks or surgeon-general’s warning for pregnant women).
Appellation d’Origine Controlée/Di Origine Controllata (often labeled simply as AOC/DOC)= These letters signify that the wine was produced in a legally defined area, using certain techniques and quality standards. Generally, the smaller the region (i.e. St. Julien, a town, vs. Burgundy, a large region) the stricter the standards for that region.
Reserve/Reserva= This is primarily clever marketing. Historically, winemakers would save (reserve) some of their best wine for future years, though now everybody saves some and it’s not always an indicator of quality.
Vintage=This is the year you’ll see printed on the front of some labels. It’s like the yearbook for a particular year, and different vintages will have different traits–for example, a Bordeaux from a very warm year will vary from one that had unusually low temperatures or heavy amounts of rain (like how hairstyles in senior pictures change…thank God the ‘90s are over).
Variety= Your eyes should go here almost instantly. Usually, the grape variety listed on the bottle makes up at least 85% (give or take) of the wine in the bottle. This makes it easy to pick a wine based on the grape variety, mostly because the names are common and often easier to remember than the label when you’re actually in the store. Wines without a varietal listed are blends, which can be great (AKA my favorites: Cupcake Red Velvet Blend or Newton’s unfiltered Puzzle) or disappointing (Like Lindsay Lohan’s demise).
This guy does a great job dissecting labels with pictures too.
Wine Labels Uncorked:
140 Character summary: Learn grapes/styles you like. Try lots of ‘em. Take pix of the labels. Cute/funny label pictures always a safe bet, @ least a convo starter.
Loudly mispronouncing grape varieties in stores with snobby personnel for a cheap laugh. (Ohhh I just adore Saw-vine-yawn Blank–especially that one in the shiny cardboard box!)
Fun Facts:There are more than 60,000 registered California wine labels.
In the tomb of King Tutankhamen (d.1352 BC.) wine jars were discovered that had wine labels with enough details to meet some present day countries’ existing wine label laws.
Watch Out: Trying the aforementioned pronunciation could result in poor service, so don’t try it at a store too close to home.