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Wine Labels are Unnecessarily Complicated

Where's the Grape?

Wine labels.  If you’re accustomed to old world labels like those from France and Italy, well they’re pretty easy.  For those of us dealing mainly in new world wine….the old world ones seem really complicated. In any case, here’s some more information on wine labels and why they ended up sucking so much.

Video Transcription:

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Happy Tuesday to everybody. I’m going to hold this up so you can get a look at it. This is a bottle of Italian wine, so obviously not a fit in any of our three different wine club options since we’re California, Oregon and Washington states only. I thought it would be interesting to spend a minute on wine labels and how they differ from one region to the other. There’s one major fundamental difference between a European wine label and an American wine label. If you hold this up again, you’ll see this simply says Chianti Classico but there’s no word on the front label what grapes go in this. There’s a very good reason for that.

Most of the old world European countries have very specific rules about if you’re growing grapes in a certain region to make wine that you’re only allowed to grow certain ones. You get this marking that says, the [origine control avanti 00:00:51] on the label. You have to follow those rules explicitly. The Italians maybe have a little bit less of those these days than say the French do. There is stuff that is super Tuscan which is really one of international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon with what’s traditionally what’s grown in Chianti which is Sangiovese.

Sangio is kind of an interesting story. Doing a Sangio, I split my special selections wine club level this month and Sangio was really one of the first grapes planted in Napa and that’s because … There’s this backhanded compliment that happens in the wine industry. When they talk about the first layer of people that came over, it’s often said that you had to have a last name that ended in a vowel. I think I can mention that because mine does although mine is probably not the right vowel to start a winery back in the 1800’s. That’s the backhanded compliment. A lot of people came from Italy and started Napa wineries. They had cuttings of Sangiovese which they had grown in Chianti and throughout the rest of Tuscany.

Quite honestly these days you’re seeing those vines quickly pulled out for more Cabernet. That’s kind of just the fact of the matter is based on how much you can sell the grapes for. You’d be frankly fairly insane to continue growing anything but Cabernet these days. To circle back here, Italian wine, French wine, the Australian and New Zealand folks have largely followed the New World naming conventions. I think you do see some older world regions that aren’t as well known starting to follow New World naming conventions on wines so you know what grapes are there. Czech Republic being first and foremost among them, they will actually list what grapes are there which I think is really helpful.

I wish that they would give you some idea about what’s in the bottle without having to know quite as much about it. I think you lose some sales by making people learn first, not figure out if they like it or not first and then learn after. Once again, I’m Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I guess maybe on the wider thing here, will the Europeans change how they name their wine? No, they won’t.

Will the Americans change how they name their wine? No, they won’t. I think the New World naming convention of putting the actual name of the grape on the front of the bottle instead of a region and allowing people a wider variety of planting choices I think is more the future and less of the past. Once again, I hope everybody is having a good week so far.


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