How to Read Our Wine Label

Ever wondered what all the information means on a wine label?  We’ve taken ours as an example to help you make sense of it all.

1.  Varietal: The type of grape used in making the wine.

Did you know? In order to be a varietal, 75% of the wine must be of that varietal?  For example, if Paul were to blend 30% Petite Sirah into our Zinfandel, we could no longer call it a Zinfandel.  However, if he wanted to blend in 24.9%, we could still call it a Zinfandel.

2.  Estate Grown or Estate Bottled:  The winery has grown the winegrapes on its own land.  Technically, this means that the winery has complete control over the vineyard practices where the grapes are grown. 

Did you know? The Estate designation is the strictest of the government labeling standards and can only be used in 100% of the grapes are grown by the winery and all of the wine is made on the premises.

3.  Vintage: The year the grapes were grown is the year on the label.  A winery may add up to 5% of a different vintage wine and still retain the vintage designation.

Did you know? It actually takes years to nake one vintage of fine wine.  From harvest to fermentation to barrel aging to bottling and then bottle aging, our finest wines are on the premises for up to five years.

4. Appellation: This shows the legally designated area, called the American Viticultural Area, or AVA, where the grapes were grown.  An El Dorado appealltion means that at least 75% of the grapes were grown in the El Dorado AVA.

Did you know? If Madrona were to purchase grapes from Amador to blend with our Estate grapes, then the wine would be labeled under the broader “Sierra Foothills” AVA.  Many wines on store shelves these days have the broadest appellation in our state, simply called “California”.  This means that they are either a mix of AVA’s or that the vintner declines to state the AVA, whether for marketing reasons or winemaking flexibility.

5.  Alcohol:  Percent by volume alcohol usually runs between 13 and 15 for California wines.

Did you know? Alcohol is the byproduct of yeast eating the sugar in the crushed grape juice, so the riper your grapes, the higher the alcohol.  At Madroña, we aim for balance, as well as ripe, full flavor.

6. Produced and Bottled by: In order to label a wine as “produced and bottled by,” the winery has to have made at least 75% of the wine on its own premises.

Did you know? If a wine simply says “Bottled by” it is possible that the wine was mde by someone else and bought in bulk by the winery on the label.

7. Government Warning: This is a federal mandate that all U.S. wines must carry this warning.

Did you know? There have been various efforts to get a “health advisory” message on the label recommending the responsible use of wine in a healthy diet.

8. Sulfites: The statement “Contains Sulfites” indicates that sulfites were used in the winemaking process.

Sulfites are naturally occurring substances found in grapes and all wine has small amounts of sulfites regardless of whether the winemaker uses them in the winery. Both naturally occurring and added sulfites are found in many everyday foods.

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