Reading A Wine Label

So, you’re ready to find your next favourite bottle when you stand in front of a wall of wine and you’ve no idea where to start. You’re not alone. Making wine is an artform right down to the label, but that doesn’t help in your quest to find a bottle that isn’t just pretty, but pretty delicious.


Deciphering wine labels can be a bit complicated, so here are our top tips for cutting through the design so that you know what looks great on the outside has a good chance of being as good on the inside.


1. It’s all about the tasting notes

The front of the bottle rarely tells you about the contents, especially flavours. Let’s be honest, the front of the bottle is all about looking pretty enough to pick up. So, if you’re turning wine detective, you’ll need to get your hands in the game. Flip the bottle and pull out the tasting note on the back label.


Here you’re likely to find something about the flavours in the wine, from cherry and strawberry in rosé to the leather and cedar of smoky reds. These are usually the best indicators that you might like what’s in the bottle, but there is more to consider, as a cherry in a rosé is not the same as a cherry in a dark and stormy red.

2. Grape Type Is a New World Thing

On a classic bottle of French red you’ll hardly ever find the grape varieties. It’s much more common on ‘New World’ (places other than France, Italy, Spain, and Germany) to put the grape type on the bottle. On the ‘Old World’ bottles, the back label is where you’ll find the grapes you’re looking for.


But why does grape matter? Well, if you know what you like, you can find bottles with the same grape and sip away. You’ll also be able to read into the flavours in the tasting note by knowing your grape a little more. Cherry in a Pinot Noir is lighter and more fruitful. Cherry in a Cabernet Sauvignon is more subtle against the other flavours.

3. Where the Wine Is From

This is an interesting one. The country and region matter when it comes to making wine (it’s a climate thing). If you’re not looking to overcomplicate matters but you want to explore, finding a bottle from the same county, or region, as something you already like can be a good place to start.


If you’re feeling more adventurous, picking a grape variety you enjoy, like a French Sauvignon Blanc, then change your geography to something hotter (or colder) and see what changes (trying New Zealand Sauvignon is a must, and a treat!).

4. Added Extras

If you’re in search of something organic, vegetarian, or vegan, you’ll usually find it somewhere on the bottle. Older bottles won’t mention it, but many wines now put such things on the front of the bottle for clarity. You’ll also find many wines put their sustainability status on the back label too.


Weirdly it’s not very easy to find out this information online, especially in the old world. But if you know where to look…

Written by Matt Mugan