The back story behind every wine label

What do the blurbs on wine labels reveal about the bottle’s content? Very few food and drink producers have the luxury of putting their stamps on their brands as often as winemakers. Titles are typically divided into two categories.

There’s the cocky European version, and it usually appears as the voiceover (“Since the beginning of time”) for the film in the French Municipal Museum. Then there’s the more mellow character typical of The New World, with talk of family and “our little patch of dirt,” as well as an Innocent Smoothie or two an anthropomorphizing of grapes and vines.

Here’s a guide for sorting the information that could be useful from the crafty phrases.

Great wine is created at the winery.

The phrase was coined by winemakers looking to disengage themselves from the excessively technical approach to winemaking that gained over in the late 1980s and early 90s as winemakers began to think they could compensate for any deficiencies in the quality of their ever-sophisticated wineries. When the shortcomings of this approach became apparent, the word became so commonplace to the point of being a joke and became as relevant to consumers as “we believe wine should be made from grapes.” Also, “favored patch of land”; “unique terroir.”


Talking about a wine that performs better when paired with food rather than without. On most back labels, however, it’s associated with “versatile” to make the more sweeping assertion that the wine is compatible with nearly everything. No wine is as versatile. I prefer when labels are specific. For example, suggestions such as pigeon pastilla and turbot with sauce mousseline could appear pretentious. Still, if you don’t cook the exact recipe, it’s at least a concept of what you can do as opposed to the wide-ranging “great with” lists you can find on store-owned labels.


Popularity is increasing and often accompanied by notes on the tasting “mineral.” To give a general idea of fashion, it’s beneficial as a general rule that wines from cooler climates are lighter, fresh, and, yes, much more mineral than those of warmer areas. However, this is a relative concept. Any winemaker can put “cool-climate” on the back label (the more trendy it becomes, the more people are inclined to do so). Still, a place classified as excellent within Chile, for instance, Casablanca, is warm in Germany, and their wines share nothing in common.

Vines from the past

Most winemakers will tell you their top wines are from older vines, so it’s understandable why they would want to promote the fact. But, again, there are no legal definitions that make the phrase – whether French old-fashioned vignettes, Germanic alte Leben, and Spanish wines viejas virtually meaningless. The vines can be anything between 20 and 100 years old. Unscrupulous producers will declare “old”; those with long-lived vines (for me, that’s 50-plus years) tend to be exact.

One vineyard

Another expression used to convey quality. However, it’s more about the differences in style. A winemaker will discover that a particular vineyard’s grapes possess specific characteristics that are best exhibited when stored on their own. When the vineyard grows over a particular size, but the whole idea is a bit messy, what matters is whether a wine comes only from one vineyard when it covers what is, in the case of many regions in Australia and the Americas and Australia the same area as an entire European region?


The Spanish words Rioja, Reserva, and Gran Reserva refer to something different concerning the minimum time allowed before release. In the world beyond, this term is often a sham, referring to a wine added to the wine list at the direction of the marketing department. It also means “more expensive.” Some of the best producers attempt to clarify why a reserve is appropriate for its designation. They will also provide details on the vineyard, soil, and the winemaking process. However, some of my top producers do not look at their back labels, which is a way of proving that there is something to the books and covers.

Six wines that are proper back-label wine

De Martino Old Vines Carignan, Maule Valley, Chile 2010

The re-discovery of the old (in this instance, 57-year-old) carignan vines from the Maule Valley has been one of the most fascinating developments in Chile over the past ten years. The version of De Martino is usually dense, deep, dark, chewy, and sophisticated.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Limoux Chardonnay 2012

The elevated location of Limoux in the hills of woods in the south-western part of Carcassonne provides it with a cooler climate than the Languedoc or Roussillon-producing regions, which allows the producers of the area to create incredibly fresh and fruit-filled Burgundian Chardonnay, such as this.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante Sicily 2012

Are you referring to the unique Etna microclimate cooler than the rest of Sicily? Is it volcanic soil? Or is it the barricade grape that is native to the region? It’s hard to tell, however, this energizing white wine is bursting with vitality, and the non-fruity flavor is referred to as mineral by back-labels.

Vina Mara Rioja Gran Reserva, Spain 2007

In Rioja wines, a wine must spend at least two years in oak and then three in bottles before it is eligible to be Gran Reserva. Gran Reserva. The criteria are more about fashion than quality. However, Baron de Ley’s Tesco own label is classically strawberry-mellow, sweet, and soft.

Domaine de la Butte Perrieres, Bourgeuil 2012

Inspired by Burgundy, one of the Loire’s top producers, Jacky Blot goes beyond single vineyard bottling to single plot with his collection of cabernet franc wine from various places on the slopes of Bourgeuil like the delicious, red-fruited, elegant, and sappy red.

Marcel Deiss Engelgarten, Alsace, France 2010

The luscious whites of Alsace are frequently called versatile food wines due to their blend of balanced acidity and a great deal of texture. It is a smoky and elegant blend of stone fruit, white blossoms, and a subtle spice; this single vineyard blend is a tremendous back-label term, excellent by itself.

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