How to Read a Wine Label
If you're intimidated by wine labels, do not fret. We traveled to Freemark Abbey Winery Napa Valley, CA to solve the mystery behind the bottle. From "Single Varietal" 2 AVA & vintage, we got the scoop on how 2 read the labels & learn about the wine inside.
Divya: Hi I’m Divya Gugnani. Most people are afraid to buy wine because they just don’t understand the labels. Today, we’re at Freemark Abbey in Napa Valley, California. So, let’s go behind the burner and meet the wine maker who can clear this all up for us.
I’m here with wine maker, Brian Kosi. Brian, people have difficulty understanding wine Labels. What’s the first thing you look for?
Brian: First thing I look for is an opened bottle of wine.
Divya: That’s a good thing to look for. I can join you in that.
Brian: In that way then, it makes it a little more easy and fun to study.
Divya: My reading gets all of a sudden better once I’ve had a little wine.
Brian: First thing I look for depending on what I’m looking for. Am I looking for a particular region, particular varietal or a particular winery? So here, if I was looking for a particular varietal, I would look right here for Viognier or Cabernet.
Divya: So that’s the grape!
Brian: That’s the grape! You’re looking at the varietal of the grape.
Divya: But, does it have to be all that grape?
Brian: No, not necessarily. This Viognier just happens to be a hundred percent but this Cabernet is roughly about ten percent Merlot in that Cabernet.
Divya: So, what’s the general rule of thumb?
Brian: So, this is the Viognier and as a single varietal, it needs to have at least 75% of that grape in the bottle and you can call of that. You don’t need to list what else is in there, some wineries do, and some don’t.
Divya: So, that’s a great tip! If it has 75 % or more of that grape, that’s what you’re going to see outside of the bottle. So, when this says Cab outside, Cabernet Sauvignon, I know it has 75 % of that varietal and it may have some other good stuff in it too.
Brian: Absolutely! In this case, it is a single vineyard. So, this has to have 95% of the vineyard in this. And since it’s a Cabernet, it has to have at least 75 % Cabernet. But only 5%, we can put or throw some of that other stuff in which we don’t. The hundred percent, Rosier vineyard with a little bit of Merlot that we have grow on the vineyard.
Divya: So, what about the year?
Brian: The year is the year that we grow. Right now, this is 2009. What we’re growing right now will be put on the vintage label. So, when we pick it this fall, we’ll ferment it, put it in the barrel. Once it’s done fermenting, we declare it and that’s when it becomes 2009.
Divya: Okay great! So, the tip for our viewers is that the year on the bottle is the year the grapes we’re grown. What is this thing I heard about AVA?
Brian: AVA, okay this is a single Appalachian wine from Rutherford AVA, American Viticultural Area. Rutherford is a great growing area. Both of these are from Rutherford. The difference between these two is this is a single vineyard. It has to have 95 % in this bottle of that vineyard. This on the other hand is coming from Rutherford. We only have to have 85 % in this bottle coming from Rutherford where 15 % can come from somewhere else, another AVA.
Divya: What about alcohol content? What am I looking for the greatest content possible?
Brian: In my wines, I like them balanced. Reds add about 14 %, whites, just about 13% or 13.5 %. The higher the alcohol, the more they may become out of balance. Some wines are very balanced with higher alcohols but it depends on the wine. On a food side, I don’t like to drink high alcohol wines and that’s why the wines I make here at Freemark Abbey, they are all very- the alcohol is well and checked.
Divya: What are roughly the percentages that you see in wines in terms of the alcohol?
Brian: Our alcohols that are white are 13.8 and 14.2 and our reds are single vineyards 13.8, 14.1 one and some of the Cabs are easy enough to now about 14.5 at the top.
Divya: One of the great tips that you gave us was that when you’re pairing your wine with your food, you want to tend to take something that has a little bit less alcohol.
Brian: You want less alcohol, you want higher acids and our whites are like- I don’t let my wines go through malolactic fermentation. I want to retain that natural acidity, lift the wine, it brings the fruit forward and it just goes so well with food.
Divya: So, let’s see if the fruit is stowed away on this glass. So beautiful and okay, really nice finish as well. This is some good winemaking, Brian.
Brian: Thank you! Now I just need some seared scallops on a bed of wilted leeks.
Divya: I know. That would nice. Anything else I’m missing on the bottle?
Brian: Well, the old government standard warning.
Divya: You can’t miss that, right? Well thanks so much, Brian. For having us! Cheers!
Brian: Cheers! Thank you for coming!
Divya: Stay tuned Behind the Burner where we give you the tips, tricks and techniques that are lighting the culinary world on fire.
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