The wine label

The wine label is more or less the calling card of a wine. It provides a wealth of information that's important when purchasing wine.

For the wine purchase the label gives important information: vintage, grape variety, origin, quality category, type and style of wine, flavour, alcohol content, producer’s name and the quality control test number.

Some of this information is mandatory, some is optional. Mandatory information of a German “Qualtiätswein” or “Prädikatswein” is the designation of the quality category and winegrowing region from which the wine comes. Additionally, the label might also name a more narrowly defined appellation of origin, such as a village, or a site. The quality control test number, producer (“Gutsabfüllung” or “Erzeugerabfüllung”) or bottler (“Abfüller”), the existing alcohol in per cent by volume and the liquid content of the bottle are all mandatory declarations.

The indication of the existing residual sugar content is permitted, but is rarely mentioned. The vintage may only be named if 85% of the wine is made from that particular harvest. The designation of a grape variety is permitted if 85% of the grape is from this grape variety and its typical flavour is reflected in the wine. Three varieties may be named (in descending order of their content) if the wine is made exclusively from them.

Specific information on a label is actually to the consumer's advantage. On the other hand, many consumers, who are not given advice when purchasing wine, are overchallenged and uncertain.

What makes the orientation easier: the quality control test number is a guarantee of a qualitative minimum standard, as is the name of a (reputable) producer. The grape variety influences the bouquet and flavour of a wine to a considerable extent. Just like the style which is usually indicated on the label in case of dry and medium-dry wines. The name of a vineyard site provides a point of reference, but is usually only significant for connoisseurs. Different producers can make entirely different styles of wine from one vineyard site.

For some time now, there have been a number of initiatives throughout Germany's winegrowing regions to simplify labels. Improved visual clarity is the goal of many producers. Some producers limit the data to grape variety, style and producer's name, and omit the name of the vineyard site. Others put all the optional information on a back label, thereby uncluttering the front label. During the past few years a great deal of creativity has gone into label design. Graphically designed modern versions show that German wine producers are in tune with the times.

(Source: German Wine Institute, www.deutscheweine.de as of 5 July, 2011)