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The Art of Reading Wine Labels

Your mission is to buy a bottle of Chardonnay, say. Confident, go to the store - "everything is under control", you tell yourself. That is, until I reach the wine district and you see yourself surrounded by dozens of wine labels, one more colorful than the other. You can find Romanian wines that say Chardonnay, but you would like a French one. But the French one doesn't have any grapes ?! Well, here comes the art of reading wine labels

In general, there will be three types of labels: those depending on the region of origin, those depending on the variety of grapes and those with unique names, without a precise geographical name. Let's look at each one:

1. Labels based on the region of origin

These are specific to the old world - France, Spain, Italy. In these cases, you will often not find the grape variety displayed on the label, but only the region it comes from. For example, if we were to return to our imaginary mission at the beginning of the article, the Chablis region of France produces only white wines, from the Chardonnay variety. Thus, these bottles will not have the grapes on the labels, but only the region of origin. If you come across a bottle of wine that comes from a region you don't know, 

I advise you to look for the region on the small mobile encyclopedia you have in your pocket (I mean, of course, your mobile phone - I hope no one wears it in your pocket an atlas of wines!). As a little help, I thought of making a short list of famous grape region-pairs in Europe: Chablis - Chardonnay, Pouilly-Fuisse - Chardonnay, Condrieu - Viogner, Beaujolais - Gamay, Sancerre - Sauvignon Blanc, Pouilly-Fume - Sauvignon Blanc, Barolo - Nebbiolo, Brunello di Montalcino - Sangiovese, Riax Baiax - Albarino. I have intentionally chosen not to include regions that have famous blends in the list because I intend to dedicate an entire article to this topic.

2. Labels based on grape variety

Here things are a bit tricky - although on a bottle of wine labels you could write a certain variety of grapes, this does not mean that the wine was made 100% of that variety. Depending on the legislation of the country of origin, certain producers are allowed to add a small percentage from another variety. For example, a Malbec from Argentina can be up to 20% non-Malbec. Despite this fact, the variety on the label will be the predominant one, the secondary variety often having the role of balancing the wine, without adding strong aromas.

3. Unpublished labels

In recent years, producers in some parts of the world have begun experimenting with their wines. This is because, especially in the case of the ancient world, the laws on wine production are very strict, and some oenologists consider them restrictive. Thus, they reset the tradition to create new and interesting wines that mix all kinds of grape varieties, some more interesting. However, the problem is that this violation of the rules means that their wine cannot receive titles of controlled origin (DOC, DOCG and other equivalents). This is also the situation in the case of Supertuscan wine - extraordinary wines, made from blends of local grapes with international varieties, which, however, have a typical geographical indication. For example, the simple, colorful label of Bibi Graetz wine, Colore, which shows "Tuscany Typical Geographical Indication". 

If you saw this bottle on the shelf, with the vintage from 2011, you would think that it is probably a dozen wines, because nothing seems extraordinary at first sight. But, when you notice that this wine costs around € 400, you might change your mind… Unfortunately, there is no clear formula by which we can figure out which of these wines are the really good ones and which are only a dozen wines. So, probably the safest way is to take the price. there is no clear formula by which we can figure out which of these wines are the really good ones and which are only a dozen wine labels. So, probably the safest way is to take the price. there is no clear formula by which we can figure out which of these wines are the really good ones and which are only a dozen wines. So, probably the safest way is to take the price.

In conclusion, as with any other element of wine, there are no shortcuts - you can learn about various regions just by being proactive. If you find a wine from a region you've never heard of, look for it. In general, I like to look for reviews of wine labels that I find interesting, but that are at a suspiciously low price, and I encourage anyone to do the same. Instead, I advise you not to take a wine that doesn't say the price just because it seems cheap - you may find yourself in a situation where you have to leave your wallet at home. Let only the beauty of the label, not the price, bring you to tears of emotion


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