Understanding wine labels
While not all wine bottles have to have a label, most that you will come across do. Of course, cleanskins are out there and offer quality that ranges between frightening and super value, but you will come across labeled wine more often. The information on the label can be basic to complex, with indications that range from the producer through to additives and back to grape varieties. Often the front label is used for basic info, while the back label lets the high paid copywriters wax lyrical.
Some of the essentials on an Australian bottle of wine will appear on all labels. Generally, one sees a brand name. The percentage of alcohol, number of standard drinks this translates as and an Australian address are all compulsory on a label. Meanwhile, the net contents in milliliters are also present and when sulphur is added then ‘preservative 220’ appears.
The variables that often come into question are slightly different. ‘Reserve’, ‘Premium’ and ‘Single Vinyard’ may appear – these are quality designations that work in a kind of undefined but often meaningful way. Reserve and Premium generally indicate a special bottling of a wine, something that sits higher up in the scale of a range. Single Vineyard means the wine is sourced from one site, which can mean that it reflects its ‘terroir’ more easily – the vineyard designation can be very important in premium and reserve wines.
Generally design is open to interpretation. There are some eye-wateringly bad labels that may even cause a gag reflex, but generally designers are more thoughtful than to turn you off your wine… Bring on the pretty pictures…