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- Labeling wine: What’s in the bottle can be difficult to decipher
Wed, Jan 4, 2012 10:21 AM
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
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
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