The Mountain Times

°F Mon, April 21, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Labeling wine: What’s in the bottle can be difficult to decipher

What's in a bottle of wine? Well, of course wine. At least that's what's to be expected - and to be clear, it typically is. But by looking at the bottle, the only information we have about the contents is what's listed on the label. We generally cannot taste or smell to be sure. Our trust is wholly dependant on the packaging as is with all packaged foods these days. With wine there is a long history of the trust we must have to consume the liquid in the bottle.

Labeling wine began in the Roman times. Wine drinkers were supposed to, at least theoretically, be told about the producer, source and type of a particular wine. But unscrupulous dealers would often alter the information on the labels or dilute wines, to make greater profits.

 In nearly all countries, misrepresentation on the label has been a problem, especially those bottles shipped to foreign lands. Most wine was (and largely still is) consumed locally, which provided a substantial degree of assurance, as people often know the producer.

With the development of steam-powered transportation by land and sea in the 19th century, wine became a commodity, widely available on markets throughout the world. It was then that many wines began to travel outside of their production areas. It was also in the 19th century that scientists began to lay the theoretical and practical foundations of modern winemaking. Eventually new ways of transportation and technology were to sweep away many ancient winemaking practices, in the process creating pressures for change. As market demands increased, so did the need to guarantee and protect the origin of wines. Thus, the modern wine appellation or denomination system was created.

There are various laws in different places. In all, these are at least supposed to tell you where the wine comes from, who made it and when. Though on many cheap, mass-produced wines even this basic information is sketchy. At least there is a general law in the US that requires all imported goods to identify the country of origin, sparing us wine say from Siberia.

A common practice these days is, to only list who bottled and 'vinted' the wine, not mentioning where the grapes come from. Not necessarily all that bad, but for a good bottle of wine I would still look for 'estate bottled' wine with a label that clearly identifies the origin and type of wine. It may not be necessary to list the grape(s), but it should give us a clear sense of what type of blend it is, either by origin or commonly used blends, if more than one grape varietals are used. The more information that is listed on the label, the better. It's worth being able to trust the wine makers and enjoy a bottle of real, authentic and unadulterated wine.

Tagged: Wine Experiments, Wine