WHAT'S IT ALL MEAN?
As if choosing a bottle of plonk wasn't hard enough without knowing what the label means. Here we explain, line by line, everything on your domestic wine label. You'd be amazed at how straight forward it is (well at least 85 per cent of it, anyway).
Like the label emblazoned on your t-shirt, the brand on the wine label helps know what it is. It may or may not be the name of the actual producer because many wine producers make a few different brands. For example, Peter Lehmann also makes Clancy's; McWilliams also makes Hanwood and Sunstone; and Dromana Estate also produces Schinus and Gary Crittenden I. But while a different brand may be named on the front, the actual producer's name and address must be written on the back.
As far as Australian wine laws go, the term 'reserve' on a wine label could mean the B team for the local footy team. It isn't governed by any guidelines and does not guarantee a certain quality regardless of what it implies. However, as well as being subject to wine label laws, wine labels are also subject to consumer laws and the Trade Practices Act, so if you really think you've been lead astray, you can take legal action.
How much of it ... come on, you must know this.
PRODUCT OF AUSTRALIA
Please don't make me explain.
Exactly as it says - an indication of the percentage of alcohol in the wine. In Australia, the alcohol in the wine can vary plus or minus 1.5 per cent from what's written on the bottle. You'll note that the alcohol content of the same beer bottled in two different years stays the same. However, the alcohol content in the same type of wine can vary from year to year due to different picking times of the grapes and different winemaking techniques.
Where there's a single variety on the label, the wine is made up entirely of that grape - at least 85 per cent of it anyway (manufacturers are allowed to add up to 15 per cent of other varieties to achieve a consistent style or blend). When there's a variety combo, say, shiraz cabernet, at least 85 per cent of the wine is made from these two varieties and there's more shiraz than there is cabernet. You see, the order each variety is written on the label is also the order of contribution by volume to the end product. There are very specific percentages that wine makers must follow, but explaining it would only bore you. If it doesn't mention any variety, and says something like Classic Dry Red, it may very well be made up of 100 per cent shiraz or it may be a big lolly bag of a blend. It's written like that depending on the market the wine is aimed at.
The year on the bottle shows the year the grapes were harvested. If a year is shown, again, the magic number of 85 per cent or more of the wine must come from that year. If grapes from more than one vintage are used to make the wine, then these vintages must be on the label in descending order in which they're used.