Buying Wine, How to Read a Wine Label and Select a Great Bottle of Wine

I must admit, that for many of us, walking into a store to buy a bottle of wine can be a little like visiting a foreign country and not knowing the language. If you’re buying wine for yourself that’s probably not a big deal, although it might be nice to be somewhat knowledgeable so that you’re more likely to buy something you will enjoy. However, if you are buying a bottle of wine as a gift, then being able to interpret information on the label becomes a bit more important. But, first things, first.

Your first consideration should probably be where you will be shopping. If you live in a state where alcohol sales are controlled or restricted, your options may be limited. I happen to live in Pennsylvania where consumers are only permitted to purchase packaged wine and alcohol from state-operated Wine and Spirits Stores or a privately owned Pennsylvania Winery. You may, of course, travel out of state to purchase a limited amount of alcoholic beverages, but these purchases are subject to an 18% state tax. (However, I can’t say that I know anyone who has traveled out of state to buy wine and actually fessed-up, claimed their booty, and paid that outrageous tax.) To find the best selection of wine in a state where alcohol sales are controlled, check on the internet for information and locations of any retail outlets. For example, PA has premium wine stores and you can get a listing of their locations by checking out the PA Liquor Control Board web site.

If you live in a state with more liberal alcoholic beverage laws, you probably have more options available for buying wine: Large retail chains like Wal-Mart and Target, large drug store chains, supermarkets, independently owned liquor stores, specialty wine shops and wine warehouses. You can buy excellent wines at all these venues, but the independently owned stores have the potential to vary in the quality and quantity of their inventory. One of the best avenues for selection and price is a wine warehouse and if you’re really lucky, you live in a state where you can order wines online from a wine distributor.

Not all wine shops are created equal so there are some issues you should be concerned with when choosing where to purchase wine. One consideration is how the wine is stored. Exposure to excessive heat, wide temperature fluctuations, and bright spotlights may cause deterioration, so take note of any wine that may be stored next to radiators or heating vents. You should also observe the general aesthetics of the store. Are things well-organized, and neat or is the merchandise dusty and in disarray? A sign of a quality wine shop is when a store carries more than one vintage of a particular wine. This would indicate the shop owner is interested in the depth of their offerings as well as the breadth.

Every retail store has organization and a wine store is no exception. Even though all those bottles may look deceptively similar, a closer look will probably reveal some system of how the wine is displayed. They may be broken out in such wide categories as the type of wine i.e. red, white, or sparkling. They may also be categorized by region: Napa Valley, Sonoma, Loire, Finger Lakes, Italian, South African, etc. or by varietals: Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc, etc. Getting an idea of the layout of the store will at least help you find a particular section you may be interested in.

Now on to the label…

There are laws that mandate what information must be included on a wine label. These laws vary from country to country and are based on where the wine is marketed rather than where it is produced. Much to the dismay of the producer, this may mean that one wine will have several different labels. After the label is designed it must be approved by various governmental agencies.

Most wines bottles will have two labels affixed to it. In addition to these labels providing the legally mandated information, they are intended to help market the product. The front label is designed to attract the consumer’s attention by the use of marketing tactics such as logos, interesting graphics, color and lettering. The back label will often try to entice your senses. A Pinot Noir that I have in my inventory but have not yet tried states “…Rich in texture with a lingering finish and versatile enough to compliment just about any cuisine.” It caught my attention! These optional endorsements are not governed by law.

Labeling requirements for the United States are established by the Treasury Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. These requirements include:

Identifying brand name or brand identification- This may be the owner’s name, trademark name, winery name, growing area, appellation or grape variety. The brand name must not be misleading as to the quality, origin, age, or grape varietal. In the U.S., a wine cannot be labeled a particular varietal unless it contains at least 75% of that varietal. For example a wine may not be called zinfandel if it only contains 74% zinfandel grapes.

Class of wine, type or designation- The wine is labeled with the class number or with a description similar to those described here:

Class 1 - May be labeled “Light Wine”, “Light White Wine”, “Table Wine”, “Sweet Table Wine” “Red Table Wine”, or something similar. A Class 1 wine must have an alcohol content between 7% and 14% by volume.

Class 2 - May be labeled “Sparkling Wine” or something similar. A Class 2 wine has been made sparkling by a natural method only.

Class 3 - May be labeled “Carbonated Wine” or something similar. Class 3 wine has carbon dioxide injected into it.

Class 4 - May be labeled “Citrus Wine” or something similar. A Class 4 is wine that was produced primarily with citrus fruit.

Class 5 - May be labeled “Fruit Wine” or something similar. A Class 5 wine was produced primarily from fruits other than grapes or citrus.

Class 6 - Wine that has been made from agricultural products such as vegetables.

Class 7 - May be labeled “Aperitif Wine” or something similar. A Class 7 wine has an alcohol content of not less than 15% by volume; the grape wine has been compounded with added brandy, alcohol, and flavored with herbs and natural aromatic flavoring.

Class 8 - May be labeled “Imitation Wine” or something similar. A Class 8 wine contains man-made materials.

Class 9 - May be labeled “Retsina Wine” or something similar. A Class 9 wine is a grape table wine that has been fermented or flavored with resin.

Alcohol content by volume- The alcohol content must be listed on the label only if it contains more than 14% by volume. Wines that contain more than 14% alcohol are taxed at a rate four times higher than those containing less alcohol. These are considered “fortified wines” even if the high alcohol volume is attained by natural fermentation. For wines with an alcohol content of 14% or greater, a 1% variation is allowed. Wines that have less than 14% alcohol by volume are permitted a 1.5% variation. Wines containing less than 14% alcohol must state it on the label or be labeled by the appropriate class or description such as “light table wine”.

Net volume of contents- In 1977, the U.S. government mandated that metric measurements be used as the wine industry standard. The most common bottle volume is 750ml. If the volume does not appear on the label look for it molded into the glass bottle.

Name and address of the bottler, producer and country of origin- This information is required on all American wines and the words “bottled by” must immediately precede the name and address of the bottler. The term “produced and bottled by” may be used if the bottler also made no less than 75% of the wine by fermenting the must (juice) and clarifying the wine. “Made and bottled by” may be used if the named winery fermented and clarified at least 10% of the wine or if the winery changed the class of the wine by fortifying it, adding carbonization or making it a sparkling wine by adding a secondary fermentation process. When the words “cellared”, “vinted” or “prepared” are used it means that the named winery cellared, clarified or barrel aged the wine at that location. “Blended and bottled” indicates that the named winery mixed the wine with other wine of the same type and class at that location. The country of origin indicates where the wine was produced and not necessarily where the grapes were grown.

- This designation tells the country or region where the grapes were grown. The information provided may be broad and indicate the country or it may be very specific and name the particular vineyard. Some labels include both. In the U.S. it is mandatory to include the appellation of origin if any of the following apply:

1.A generic term is used

2.A varietal term is used

3.The name is qualified with the word “brand”

4.The vintage (year the grapes were harvested) is included on the label

In addition, for American wines to be labeled as California appellation, CA state law mandates that 100% of the grapes used must be grown in CA. Most other states have a 75% requirement. For a wine to be labeled a specific viticultural area (Sonoma), 85% of the grapes must be from the named area.

Declaration of sulfites or “Organic” wine-Winemakers will sometimes add small amounts of sulfur dioxide to the wine to preserve the fruity flavor and retard oxidation. Other winemakers will spray their grapes with sulfites to prevent disease and reduce pests. Because sulfites may cause allergic reactions or severe headaches in some individuals, when the sulfite content is higher than 10ppm, the label must say “sulfites added”. If a wine is labeled simply “organic” it means it contains only naturally occurring sulfites. “Made with organically grown grapes” simply means that the grapes were organically grown (not sprayed with sulfites) but the sulfite content might be higher than wine labeled “organic”.

Health warning- In 1989, the United States mandated that any alcoholic beverage bottled or imported for sale or distribution in the U.S. must include a health warning statement on the label. These warnings many include any of the following specific messages:

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”

3.”May cause health problems”

In addition to all the information listed above, many wine producers may include optional information…but I’ll leave that for another time.

Now that you know how to read a wine label run, don’t walk, to the nearest wine store and try your new skills!

Make Your Own Wine and Cut Down on Your Entertainment Expenses

It hasn’t been long since wine experts were considered gods who dictated how wines should taste and which ones were better. Wine tasters have been setting the trend in wines until today. The desire to be one’s self has led many of the younger generation to ignore the wine preferences of the previous generation. Wine kits which allow you to make your own wine as fruity and unordinary as you like are getting to be very popular.

Your choices are many with wine kits

The wine flavors you can get from a store represent a fraction of what wine kits offer.

Wines that are made commercially are necessarily the ones that are sold best. This is due to the fact that unless commercial wine-makers get a big share in the market, they cannot gain back their capital, much less earn anything.

In contrast, companies which make the kits that you use to make your own wine do not need to buy all the equipment for fermenting and aging the wine. The customer does that himself. Without the need to buy casks and jars, they spend and charge less for their product. This encourages them to bring out new blends and flavors all the time, knowing that customers will not be timid about spending for some new and untested flavor.

On top of the fact that wine kits offer a constantly varying assortment of blends, it is also possible to mix them in different proportions to produce an infinite number of variations. This characteristic is very attractive for people who want to customize their own personal blend of wine.

Make your own wine and you may save a lot of money

To effectively make your own wine and save, awareness of prices at wine stores is a must. You can then compare the unit cost it took to produce a bottle of your home-made wine and the cost of its commercial counterpart. You could also take the time to research on what types of grapes are used for what types of liquor. Then you can make a generic comparison of the contents of the kit and the ingredients of the commercial wine, without having to rely on their names.

Actually to make your own wine from wine kits and save money doing that, you have to limit yourself to more expensive wines. That is because, the wine you get from wine kits will cost as much as the bottle you used for it. The liquid itself may account for $1 or $2 of its total value with the bottle normally priced at around $10. Logically, if ferment a cheap wine ($15 – $20) at home you won’t have that much of a margin for savings. You may even do better to buy the commercial wine rather than to make your own wine.

The importance of studying whether to make your own wine or not cannot be underestimated. This is particularly true if you plan to do it as a budget-saving move. The right information, you can anticipate all the correct results.

Cheap wine gives less savings

Your savings will correspond to how much the commercial beverage costs above the average cost of a wine bottle, which is $10. The wider your margin, the brighter your prospects for saving will be.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most people prefer to ferment their more expensive favorites. To make your own wine from kits makes it necessary to consider the expensive types of wine first. Again – you should have done the appropriate research before doing anything.

Wine Coolers – Investing In The Ultimate Storage For Your Wine Collection

Everstar is one of the best manufacturers of wine chillers. A cooler is a guaranteed method for storing alcohol at the right temperature to preserve flavor and texture. An Everstar Wine Cooler makes a great addition to the home of any wine lover, and the variety of models available make it possible to store anywhere between 6 and more than 100 bottled of your favorite alcohol all in one secure location. The Everstar Wine Cooler is identical to the Franklin Chef Cooler. The company, Franklin Industries, distributes coolers under both names, and models offer identical features. The Everstar brand is primarily distributed through Home Depot, but the Franklin Chef name is much more common among various retail locations.

Wine coolers allow you to store your liquor in ready to serve condition. While many wine appreciators may have a wine cellar or wine rack, a wine cooler is also a good addition to the home of any aficionado. Wines stored in cellars or in racks are well protected from the elements and can easily be kept for decades. When it comes time to serve wine, you want your libations to be properly chilled and ready to serve strait out of the bottle. This takes some forethought as you need to move your wine choices from the cellar or the rack to the refrigerator well in advance of serving. Keeping your liquor in a wine chiller allows you to have a selection of chilled wines on hand every day. No matter what your liquor mood may be, you’ll be able to simply pull a bottle from the cooler and serve.

Wine coolers make it easier for you to serve guests at dinner parties and other social gatherings. When your wines are chilled in advance, you can serve a selection of wines to guests without much preplanning. If your guests have varying tastes, you’ll still be able to have a good drink on hand and ready for each and every pallet imaginable. An Everstar Wine Cooler makes it possible to store dozens of bottles of wine in ready to serve condition. You’ll find it takes some of the worry out of your daily life as well as your party planning tasks.