When it comes time to choose a wine gift, are the labels leaving you clueless? Unless you are educated in wines it can be very difficult to know which wine is which by merely reading the label. This article will explain some of the terms you need to know when choosing a wine gift.
Most New World wines (those from America, Australia or South America) are often easier to understand. They tend to be much more direct in what they put on the labels. European wine labels, on the other hand, can be confusing with the terms and amount of information. It also doesn't help that the labels are not in English.
There are terms that you want to see on a label as they often indicate a wine of higher quality. There are also terms that should raise a red flag and often point to inferior quality. There are also terms that are merely informative and don't give an indication of any sort.
Poor Soil/Deprived of Water sounds like it would be a bad thing but it's not. Grape varietals grown under these conditions will often tend to focus all the energy on producing and ripening the grapes. The resulting wine is usually superior because the grapes are of higher quality.
Vielles Vignes refers to the fact that the grapes were grown on old vines. Older vines have more concentrated juices and produces wines with richer flavors than newer vines. This is a good indicator of a high quality fine wine.
Estate Bottled refers to wine that is grown, produced and bottled in the same place. This is usually a sign of a higher quality wine as the inference is that the wine maker took great care in producing that vintage in every step of the process. On French wines, watch for Mis en Bouteille au Chateau, au Domaine, or au Propriete on the label.
Cru is a term found on fine French wine labels. The term simply indicates that the wine was produced in the famous wine making regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy or Alsace. This is a definite indication of a high quality wine.
Methode Traditionelle is a common term on American sparkling wines or champagnes. It means traditional method and indicates that it was made in the same way as Old World champagnes. This term is generally of very high quality but at a much lower price than a fine French champagne.
Grand Vin is a term commonly found on French wine labels. Although it sounds good to the English ear, it actually does not indicate quality but only designates that that wine is the primary wine of that particular vineyard.
Superieur is another neutral term that often fools people who only speak English. This term on a French or Italian wine simply shows that the wine has a higher than normal alcohol content.
Terms that should raise a red flag to the wine buyer include strange or unfamiliar wine awards, gimmicky marketing terms and vague geological references. Inferior Australian wine makers have been notorious for placing wine award stickers on bottles that come from meaningless esoteric wine festivals.
Gimmicky marketing terms often try to promote inferior wines by adding flowery prose and hyperbolic statements that really don't mean anything. Vague geological references are trying to fool the public into believing the wine is of higher quality than it is.
Now that you know which terms to look for, you should have no problem picking out a wine gift of high quality that will truly be appreciated.