Labels are the first thing we see when looking at a wine bottle, and for many people it’s the most important factor when deciding which bottle to buy. Do you prefer your Sauvignon Blanc to have butterflies, fish, stamps or walnuts? Or do you simply want it to glow in the dark?
There’s a fair bit of technical information that has to be on wine labels, but it’s the overall design that’s likely to determine whether you like the look of a wine or not. Continue reading below to find out a bit more about what goes into making a wine label.
The following must appear on a label in a single field of vision (e.g., can be viewed without having to turn the bottle), except for the Importer’s details, the Lot number, and allergen statement.
- Class/type of wine
- Appellation of origin (e.g. AOC Champagne or DOC Rioja)
- Country of origin (e.g. “Product of Chile”)
- Nominal volume expression, with minimum size lettering (e.g. 75cl)
- Alcohol content – to be shown in whole or half units e.g. 12%vol or 12.5%vol.
- Bottler/producer information – name and address for an EU wine, producer AND importer for a Third Country wine
- Importer information – name and address, preceded by the word(s) “Importer” or “Imported by”
- Allergen statement (e.g. “Contains sulphites”)
- Lot identification with the marking preceded by the letter “L”.
Vintage year (at least 85% of the grapes used to make the product must have been harvested in the year in question);
Grape variety (Where one variety is shown, the wine must contain at least 85% of the named variety. Where two or more varieties are shown the wine must only contain those varieties and they must be shown in descending order).
Allergen Labelling for Wine
Allergen labelling rules apply to beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol. Alcoholic beverages containing sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 parts per million (ppm) must be labelled “Contains sulphites”.
A new quality charter was issued by the EU in 2012 which comprised not just practices in the vineyard, but also in the cellar. Organic wines (and other organic products) can now show the official green leaf logo. Before then there had been no EU rules or definition of ‘Organic wine’: only grapes could be certified organic. So in older vintages, it was "wine made from organically grown grapes" that appeared on wine labels. At Vinifero we believe organic wines should to be certified, and that is why, whenever possible, you will see an organic logo on our wine labels.
For organic wines, the rules on sulphites are also stricter and organic wines must contain 30-50% less added sulphur than "conventional" wines, and with no use of certain additives such as sorbic acid. For example, dry red organic wines can contain 100ppm sulphur compared to 150ppm for their conventionally made equivalent. For a wine not to have the mandatory "contains sulphites" warning on the label, it must contain under 10ppm.
The European Union (EU) is the world’s largest wine economy, with roughly 70% of global production and 60% of global consumption. All 27 EU member states produce wine to some extent, and each has its own language, traditions and wine classifications. Maintaining consistency across the entire economic zone requires a set of overarching, EU-wide wine quality classifications and production laws. Until relatively recently, the EU classified wine quality into two categories: ‘QWPSR’ (Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region) and ‘Table Wine’. These were replaced in 2011 with PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)
According to the EU definition, PDO products are “produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area, using recognized know-how”. Their quality and properties are significantly or exclusively determined by their environment, in both natural and human factors.
Each EU country has its own quality categories which correspond to PDO. Three of the most significant are;
- France : AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée)
- Italy: DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)
- Spain: DO (Denominación de Origen) and DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada)
PGI (Protected Geographical Indication)
The EU definition of a PGI product is one closely linked to the geographical area in which it is produced, processed or prepared, and which has specific qualities attributable to that geographical area.
Each EU country has its own quality categories which correspond to PGI. The most significant are:
- France : VDP (Vin de Pays)
- Italy: IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica)
- Spain : VT (Vino de la Tierra)
Since Vinifero specialises in organic, biodynamic, and natural Italian wines, we are going to delve into the Italian wine labels classification.
Italian Wine Label Information
Italian wine labels are required by law to show an established set of basic information (producer name, appellation, vintage, alcohol content and bottle volume). Italy began developing its official wine classifications in the 1960s, modeled on the French appellation system. The DOC and DOCG categories were introduced in 1963 (although the latter remain unused until 1982), and the IGT category followed in the early 1990’s.
The official tiers of Italian wine classification
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita): is the highest classification for Italian wines. It denotes controlled (controllata) production methods and guaranteed (garantita) wine quality. There are strict rules governing the production of DOCG wines, most obviously the permitted grape varieties, yield limits, grape ripeness, winemaking procedures and barrel/bottle maturation. Every DOCG wine is subject to official tasting procedures. To prevent counterfeiting, the bottles have a numbered government seal across the neck.
DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata): is the main tier of Italian wine classification, covering almost every traditional Italian wine style. There are around 330 individual DOC titles, each with a set of laws governing its viticultural zone, permitted grape varieties and wine style. Those which show consistently high quality earn promotion to DOCG status.
IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica): was introduced in 1992, to allow a certain level of freedom to Italy’s winemakers. Prior to 1992, many wines failed to qualify for DOC or DOCG status - not because they were of low quality, but because they were made from grape varieties (or blends) not sanctioned under DOC/G laws. The IGT classification focuses on the region of origin, rather than grape varieties or wine styles.
Other examples of information encountered
Superiore: usually associated with a regional name and indicates a higher quality designation usually with a small increase in minimum alcohol level (with higher quality grapes).
Classico: classic or "core" zone within a particular region. This doesn’t mean the wine is better, just that it’s from a ‘classic’ zone with more potential to produce high quality.
Riserva: a wine that’s been aged for longer (in cask, then bottle) than the normal version of the same denomination. Aging varies from denomination to denomination, but generally it’s about a year longer.