Let’s talk about labels.

I know this isn’t about a specific wine, but as the next wine I’m going to write about is French and I know there are a few “new” winos among us, I thought that it might be good to have a quick look on how to read European wine labels. So, here’s the 411—

Generally, European (or “Old World”) wines do not have the type of grape on the label, so you really wouldn’t refer to an Old World wine as drinking a Chardonnay and you will almost never see a bottle that says “Burgundy Pinot Noir” (Pinot Noir being a type of grape and Burgundy being the region in France where the grape was grown). Instead, Old World wines are identified by where the grape is grown and, legally, you can only grow certain grapes in certain regions. So, for example, the wine on the left is not a Rioja grape, but rather a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan), and Granacha (Grenache) grapes that were grown in the Rioja region of Spain. Tempranillo is the main red varietal grown in Rioja, and the wine is referred to as Rioja. A notable exception to this rule is Riesling, which is a type of grape and is almost always labeled as a Riesling rather than as the region it was grown.

New world wines, such as those grown here in the US or in Australia, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa, will name the type of grape on the bottle, this way you know you’re drinking a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir. You can see the difference with the California wine on the right, which is made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that were grown in the Alexander Valley.

I hope that made sense…and I’ll definitely put your skills to the test in my next review. Keep your eyes open for one of my favorite white wines.


  1. Alleigh says

    You’re welcome! I have to admit that this is something I learned during my first class. It made sense once I realized, but it was definitely not something that was intuitive.

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