If you’re shopping for wine for event catering, it’s important that you understand the labels. Every bottle must contain a label, and that label must provide certain details about the wine. Some of the information concerns the place where the wine is made, and some of it contains information about where it is sold. When there are requirements involving two different countries, things can get a bit confusing.
Here is an overview of what you should look for on a wine label.
You must understand the difference between the producer and wine name. The name of the producer or brand is usually placed on the top center of the label, where it will be noticed. There are a few wine labels, however, that display the brand name on the side or even bottom. The proprietary name of the wine itself is also displayed somewhere on the label.
Wine labels on New World brands contain information about the grape varietals the wine is made from. When selecting a bottle, you might look for a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. In contrast, the Old World labels contain information about the place or appellation the wine originates from, such as the name of an Italian or French village. Burgundy wines are actually labeled as Bourgogne, the town that is located in east-central France. Most people would agree that the labels on New World wine bottles are less confusing because it’s easy to determine which grape variety is in the bottle.
Regardless of whether a bottle is from the Old World or New World, the label will always display information about where the grapes used in the production of the wine were sourced. In general, the more specific the designation, the higher the quality and price of the wine. For instance, a wine label that only has “Italy” displayed on it is of lesser quality than a wine bottle label displaying the name of the specific region in Italy the grapes originated in.
Another thing to look for on a wine label is the date(s). The vintage refers to the year when the grapes used in the production were harvested. You can learn a lot from this date by going back and reading weather and climate reports from that period of time. On some wine labels, you may see “NV” for non-vintage or “MV” For multi-vintage, which means that the grapes were harvested over multiple years and blended together to make that batch. This is seen more in sparkling wine.
The alcohol level listed on a wine label offers clues about the wine. In the warm climates of the New World, grapes tend to ripen more fully, which means the alcohol levels can reach as high as 17% in dry wines. In the Old World, many appellations prohibit any alcohol level higher than 13.5%. As a result, lighter-bodied wines that are higher in acidity are produced in the Old World countries. New World countries tend to produce wines with a deeper fruity taste. This isn’t the case 100% of the time, depending on exceptions.
This is just an overview of what you can expect to see on wine bottles from different parts of the world, and what the contents on a label mean. A professional wine caterer can explain more if you need more details.