It doesn't matter if you are purchasing a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or a nice little Chardonnay. In the United States there are several things that have to be included in wine labels. Understanding what these things are, and what they mean, can enable you to decode the mystery of any wine bottle. After all, wouldn't it be nice to know what you are purchasing when you purchase it, so that you know if you are getting your money's worth?
- Brand name. Just as with anything else in the world, wine has brand names. Many people will recognize the name of a brand name wine company, even if they don't drink very much wine. Two examples of the more notable brand names in the wine industry are Ernest and Julio Gallo and Robert Mondavi.
- Producer. While easily confused with the brand name, the producer is the name of the company that actually made and bottled the wine. For the true wine connoisseur, this information can help you choose the best possible wine. While the brand name may get more recognition, the producer tells you the true quality of the wine.
- American Viticultural Area. AVAs are areas in the United States that have been rated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (formerly the ATF), and United States Department of the Treasury as grape growing areas. Simply put, what this means is the area of the United States in which the wine was made. There are four major AVAs (California, Pacific Northwest, East Coast, and Central), as well as numerous smaller AVAs within the major AVAs. For example, the Napa Valley AVA is part of the North Coast AVA, which is in the California AVA.
- Type/Alcohol content. Simply put, the type refers generally to the alcohol content that is contained within the bottle. For example, if the bottle refers to a table wine, then you will know that the wine contains less than 14% alcohol.
- Quality. Each bottler or vineyard has registered their personal quality requirements with the United States authorities. You can visit the individual vineyard's, or producer's, websites and look up their designations and what they mean. When looking on the wine label you should be able to see what the quality designation is (for example Reserve, Private Stock, or Select Reserve).
- Wine name. This is what most people think of when they think of wine. This is where you can find if the wine in the bottle is a White Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay, or Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine name is something that you should particularly pay attention to so that you know you have the right drink to go with your meal or dessert.