Wine lists can be terrifying, even if you know a little bit about wine. The only information you get is the Producer, Wine Type, Region and Vintage. That doesn’t mean a ton to you if you don’t know anything about it but it actually holds all the information you need to decide. Let’s break it down:

2012 Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Castorani Abuzzo  47 

  • 2012– the year it was produced (vintage).
  • Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo- tells you what kind of wine it is by grape variety, region or wine name (implying the blend). Here, it is the type of grape used.
  • Castorani- usually the list will provide the name of the vineyard that produced the wine.
  • Abruzzo- this is the region from where the wine comes from. There are 20 main wine regions in Italy!
  • 47- this denotes how much the bottle costs.

What to say when your significant other asks, “Why do we need to put a label on it?” 

Labels are important and when we know how to read them, we know more about what’s going in our mouths. There’s nothing worse than purchasing a bottle of wine you don’t enjoy. Knowing how to read labels will better your chances of getting something you want. However, not all labels are created equally. Wines can be labeled according to region, variety or name.

When a wine is labeled by variety you might see ” Cabarnet Sauvignon” or “Albarino” that’s the grape variety. There are literal thousands of varietals so don’t worry about knowing them all. Some will be more recognizable than others. Labels can also include more than one grape.

Wines labeled by name are named by the wine producer. Sometimes (and this is a new fact for me too) you’ll find named wines common in regions that do not allow for the use of certain grapes in their regional wines (but still grow them). For example, Tuscan (Italian) wines made with grapes originating in Frace (Merlot, Syrah and Cabarnet) are not allowed to be labeled as Italian regional wine. This is how the first Super Tuscan wines came to be. Sneaky, huh?

Wines named by region are my favorite because for me, they are easiest to decipher. “Vin de Terrior” (which is a whole other article and quite a controversial subject) are wines like Sancerre – a personal favorite, Rioja, Bordeaux and Chianti. This style of labeling is more common in old world wine countries like France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.  Each region where wine grows dictates which grapes can be used in said wine. It’s good to know that Chianti in Italy specialized in Sangiovese and Chablis in France grows Chardonnay. These regions have been producing wines for hundreds and hundreds of years, it’s their reputation and they know it. Unlike in the states where we’re only going on 100 years of winemaking (cough, prohibition, cough) these vines have been growing in these regions for lifetimes.


There is a lot more that goes into all this, but all you need to know to start is what’s in front of you. Even if all you recognize is that Italian Reds are good in your book, then go with that! But don’t be afraid to ask the sommelier at your restaurant (if there is one) what he recommends. They are there for that and they get a lot of joy out of helping you figure out what you will enjoy – at any price point. A great somm will take you on trip right at your own table. They should tell you  a story about where the producer and the vineyard and the region. My best experience of this was at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in New York. The story that was given when I asked about a particular bottle from Greece was so beautiful it was like out of a storybook. The images of the volcanic vineyards in Santorini where the Assyrtiko grapes are grown. I could imagine myself with a glass, the Mediterranean air around me and the sun setting over the Aegean.  When I tasted it, it was ashy yet drank like a Sauvignon Blanc. All of that from his recommendation!

 I love wine so much because of this;  it’s history in a bottle. You are drinking a glass that came straight from the hills of Tuscany or that were grown near the sea in France. All the richness and flavor and love are packaged up in the most delicious of ways. The more you learn about wine, the more you learn about a place and its people and how they live. History poured in a bottle and straight into your glass a world a way.  How amazing is that?

Ciao for now.