Picture it. You’re with a friend roaming the aisles of the LCBO (wine store), treating it as you do your local bookstore, reading every label intently.  Suddenly, you stumble across a bottle that stands out.  It stands out, not because of it’s varietal, terroir or age, but because of … of … it’s gawf, awful packaging and design.  That’s right folks – I know you’re with me, and in my case, it isn’t something I need to picture, because it was my reality. [Insert musical score from horror movie here].

I was at the LCBO with a friend and when we came across a non-sensicle designed wine bottle, we chuckled, and she said ” I bet it tastes awful”. Then I said “Whatever – I am going to test that theory and buy it”. I said this knowing full well it was going to be a tremendously bad experience and low and behold, a week later, when I finally found someone brave enough to try it with me, we learned our hypothesis about this wine, was unmistakably true. With all of this being said, there have been many times where a poorly designed bottle and its wine contents have knocked my socks off, and that happened because I usually looked past the design and made an educated pick based on the labeling content and text. If you’re keeping a log of the wines you enjoy, looking past design and into the contents of the bottle, will become easier for you to grasp in only a short period of time.

Great Wine Label Indications That Will Lead To Plesantville

Below are just a few things to consider when reading a wine label to determine if it’s the wine pick for you and or your special occasion.  However, and despite the list I have provided below, I still hold firm to what I have always said, which is, wine is a personal thing.  What works for me and my palate may not impress you.  I strongly believe we bring our experiences and memories to the business of nosing and tasting wine, and as a result, no two experiences can ever be the same. So, with this in mind, check out the label guide list below:.

Region – this is my first go to indication, and it does not matter if you’ve been drinking wines for years or are just starting out. If you remember some of your favourite wines (and  I do hope you are keeping a log of the wines you like and where they are from!) then you’ll know which sub-geographical wines you’ll probably like because of the regions shared terroir. Your region selection can even be broken into three steps; understanding if you like old world wines more than new world wine or vice versa, then move on to specific countries, then to specific wine regions, within that county. Take it slow.  There is no need to get granular at the very beginning and you’ll understand why I say that, when you get to exploring the wines of France.

To me, understanding the regions that impress you most can sometimes trump the varietal.  It is the region exploration that allows you to notice how different geographies produce the same varietal, but in different ways, further helping you to become more learned in how growth processes and weather can all impact your wine experience.

Wine Grape/Varietal – are you a Merlot fan or a Chardonnay fan, or maybe both? Understanding which varietal excites your palate, more times than not, can also allow you to hypothesize on how well you’ll react to that wine you’re perusing in aisle three.  It’s important to keep in mind that some varietals are easily grown in many geographies (Chardonnay), and a regions treatment of that varietal may vary greatly, but if you get familiar with region and then varietal, you’ll soon learn which geographies will produce your ideal wine, in ways which will most delight you.

Looking at the grape or grapes included in the wine you are about to buy, can also let you know if you’ll be indulging in a blend or a single varietal wine.  Blends can sometimes be an exciting exploration as you’ll get to see the vintner differences in how they handle the wine making process of varietal blending.  I have a friend, a wine distributor, who tells me in secrecy that for her personal use, she’ll only buy blends. Yes, your experience is your own and can be that particular.

Vintage/Age – if you’re an experienced or well researched wine drinker, then age, right out of the gate, will greatly impact which wines you’ll buy.  If you are new to wine, I encourage you to try varietals of different vintages, to get an understanding of the differences.  The more versed in the wine industry that you are, the more you’ll then keep in mind specific regions, and their growing seasons, of a particular year. Take a look at Rioja’s from Spain. A varietal that experienced a good run until poor growing conditions negatively effected this wine in 2007/2008, causing many to steer away from it.  I would argue, however, that as of late, Rioja’s that are now coming into drinking age have produced some fantastic results, proving that trying different vintages for your personal gauge, is undoubtedly important.

Appellation Terminology – yeah yeah… this can be somewhat technical, but the more wines and champagnes you drink, the more noticing things like Grand Cru, DOCG, Gran Riserva will make sense and matter to you.  The best way to wrap your head around appellation terminology is to take the time to understand what they mean, and log your drinking experience with each.

Listen, regardless of what the pundit’s tell you, there is no rule or law fit for tell you what  wines you should be buying for your personal pleasure, but keeping your own wine log will allow you to become an expert in the types of wines you fancy the most, and that’s what really matters. Don’t be afraid to be you, and push your boundaries by trying something new.  Your wine experiences can be endless, and only you can be the judge of that.  For me, well… I have decided to keep wit and cheekiness out of my wine buying decisions!

Cheers