How to Read a Wine Label

In the US, wine labels are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which reviews more than 100,000 alcohol labels per year.  In an attempt to make labeling easy-to-understand for consumers, the TTB requiresVilla del Monte Pinot certain information on all wine labels.

Brand name:  Name used to identify and market a wine.

Vintage date: Year in which the grapes were harvested.

Varietal:  Name of the dominant grape, such as Merlot, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir.  A varietal designation requires an appellation of origin and means that at least 75% of the grapes used to make the wine are of that variety and that the entire 75% was grown in the appellation noted on the label.

Appellation of Origin:  The name of the place (country, state, etc.) where the dominant grapes used in the wine were grown.  At least 75% of the wine is produced from grapes in the place named.

American Viticultural Area (AVA): An American Viticultural Area is a defined grape growing region in the U.S. with geographic features (such as soil and climate) that set it apart from surrounding areas.  A viticultural area appellation indicates that 85% or more of the wine was produced with grapes grown in the named area. At Villa del Monte Winery, we believe that the terroir of the AVA (local geography, elevation, geology, climate, soil, and microclimates) influences the structure of the grapes so we include the AVA on our labels.

Designation for a special wine: Reserve designation or other designation to indicate a special wine.  At Villa del Monte, we sometimes set aside a barrel for extra aging or other special treatment.

Villa del Monte Pinot Santa Cruz MountainsAlcohol content: Listed in percent by volume.  Most of our wines are in the 12-14% range.  Dessert wines tend to be slightly higher in alcohol content.  For example, Villa del Monte Merlot Dessert Wine, a fortified wine made in the Port style, is 19.8% alcohol.

Address:  The label must state the city and state (and country if outside the US) where the wine was made and bottled (not to be confused with the vineyard location).  The address can be further qualified with terms such as Grown, Produced, or Vinted. Our labels state that our wine is “Produced and Bottled by Villa del Monte Winery” which indicates that we buy our grapes.

Additional information required by the TTB:

  • Net contents in metric units (a typical wine bottle is 750 ml)
  • A health warning (standard warning about alcohol consumption is required on all alcoholic beverages containing .5% or more alcohol by volume)
  • A declaration of sulfites (required on any wine intended for interstate commerce that contains 10 or more parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide; not required for wines only sold for intrastate commerce)

Bet you are ready for a glass of Villa del Monte wine after reading this!

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