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Wine: Prices | Labels | Varietals | Stories | Links

Wine labels: How to read them

(CNN) -- Labels on wine bottles can be works of art, but federal and state laws also require they include certain information. Understanding the wine label can help you as a consumer understand what you're buying.

What should be on the label:

  • Brand/Producer name - The name chosen by the bottler.

  • Type of wine - This may be a varietal, generic or proprietary name. Varietal wines must be made from 75 percent of the grape variety named.

  • Place of origin - The geographical growing area. If a state name, such as "California," is used on the label, then 100 percent of the grapes used in the wine must be grown within the state. If a county name is used, 75 percent of grapes used must come from that county. To use an AVA (a federally approved viticultural area), 85 percent of the grapes used must come from the defined area.

  • Vintage - The year the grapes were grown. At least 95 percent of the grapes used in the wine must be of the vintage claimed on the label.

  • Individual vineyard - At least 95 percent of the grapes used in the wine must come from the vineyard named on the label.

  • Alcohol Content - If a wine exceeds 14 percent alcohol, that must be displayed on the label. Wines designated as table wines (seven to fourteen percent alcohol) are not required to put alcohol content on their labels.

  • Sulfite statement - Federal law requires this statement that wine containes sulfites.

  • Warning label - U.S. law requires the following warning be displayed on wine bottles: "Government warning: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and may cause health problems."

  • Wine: Prices | Labels | Varietals | Stories | Links

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