Wine-tasting and appreciation is an art form, a study to which some have dedicated their entire lives. To a newcomer, however, picking up a wine bottle and trying to discern the label can be confusing, even a little overwhelming, when you don’t know what any of it means. And you haven’t even tasted anything yet.
Wine labels are divided into several components, which helps you identify essential information about the wine, including brand, origin, vintage, and production. These must comply with strict regulations, which determine the minimum amount of information that must be included on a wine label, to ensure truthfulness of the provided information. These regulations apply to grape growers, wine goods manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and buyers.
An Australian wine label must include the following information:
1. Designation (Food) Name
This can be any appropriate name or description, such as wine, sparkling wine, fortified wine, or brandy — provided they meet the conditions for these products, as determined by the Food Standards Code.
2. Alcohol Statement
Wines and sparkling wines containing more than 1.5% alcohol must include an alcohol statement, expressed as X% alcohol, or similar. This is reduced to 0.5% tolerance for fortified wines. Any alcoholic beverage containing more than 1.15% alcohol cannot be labelled as a “low-alcohol beverage”.
3. Volume Statement
This must be in a designated place on the label, depending on the size of the container and the label itself. It must be clearly stated, in metric units, and in English, and clearly distinguishable from any images or colours in the background.
4. Country of Origin
This can be as simple as just the name of the country, such as “Wine of Australia”. This is not the same as the geographical indication, and must include all countries if it is made from a blend of different grapes.
5. Name and Address
This must show the name and business address of either the Australian vendor, manufacturer, packer, or importer; including the road or street number, name, suburb, town, State/Territory. It cannot be a postal address, such as a PO Box or RSD number.
6. Standard Drinks
This is a statement of how many standard drinks are in this one container. It can be presented in words, or using the approved logo.
7. Allergens Statement
Wines and wine products must clearly state if they contain any allergens, or have used any of the following substances during manufacturing:
gluten and gluten products
crustacea and products
egg and egg products
peanuts, soybeans, and products
more than 10mg/kg concentration of sulphite
casein and potassium caseinate
8. Vintage, Variety and Geographical Indication (Region)
These are optional elements on a wine label, but if they are included, they must adhere to Australian blending regulations.
Vintage refers to the harvest year
Region is where it was harvested — at least 75% of the grapes must come from this region
Variety is the grape variety — e.g. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon etc.
9. Lot Number
This is to help trace back to the specific production run in the event of a recall for health or safety reasons. If this is not present, or properly displayed, then all products with the same label may be recalled at once.
This information must all be presented in English, and on both the individual packaging and outer cartons, should they be packaged together. You can read about this more in depth in the Compliance Guide for Australian Wine Producers.
Once you know where all this information is located, it will be easier to tell exactly what kind of wine you’re buying. Stay tuned for Australia’s major grape varieties!