Wine label: how to read a wine bottle label

Knowing and understanding what is on a wine bottle label can help you make the right choice of wine. Often people are in the supermarket and they wonder which wine they can choose best, but often you first have to understand the wine label a little better. I have tried to give an easy explanation of what the wine label exactly means and what it means.

The information on the wine bottle label

The label on a bottle of wine logically gives you information about the contents of the wine bottle, but what exactly does it say? What should be in a wine bottle is regulated and laid down in European wine legislation. This includes the mandatory indications but also terms on the wine label that are not required by law. What exactly is put on a label is determined by the wine producer, the one who makes the wine. The winemaker is also dependent on the rules that apply to wine making in the country concerned: the wine legislation.

Wine legislation

The applicable wine legislation in the country where the wine is made determines matters such as which grape variety can be planted within a geographical zone and to where that zone applies. In countries such as Spain, France and Italy per wine region, wine region and wine municipality, it is legally determined which grape varieties may be planted in the area concerned. Because this is so strictly established, a wine producer often only puts on the label where the wine comes from and not which grape variety is used, after all the grape variety is laid down by law and therefore pointless to mention it. You see this especially on labels of wines from the “old world”, ie wines that come from Europe.

Wines from the “new world” (wines produced outside Europe) often have the grape variety mentioned on the label and in addition the label of these wines is often kept as simple as possible. Usually there is no more on the label than the grape variety, the name of the winemaker and the country of production. Given the different wine laws per country, the label of a bottle of wine is therefore not always the same.

What can you see on the label of a bottle of wine?

1. Where bottled / bottled?
“Mise en bouteille au chateau” = bottled at the castle
“Mise en bouteille a la propriete” = bottled on the property
“An etampe” = bottled elsewhere under the approval of the chateau; e.g. by an importer

2. Contents of the bottle
This is usually referred to as CL or LTR. This has to do with excise and import duties.

3. The alcohol percentage
The alcohol percentage must be stated on each bottle.

4. The designation of origin
So the Appellation Controlee (A.C.), followed by the area or place name.

5. Country of origin
Is only mentioned for export in e.g. the terms “product of Italy”.

6. The name
The name of the castle or property, such as “Chateau…”, “Domaine….”, “Clos….”

7. The classification
Wines that are allowed to use a certain classification will in most cases state this with pride.

8. The year
The harvest year. This is only important for the red Bordeaux and to a lesser extent Burgundy wines. Also for the higher Beaujolais.

9. The owner
Usually the name of the owner (s) is indicated, followed by: propriètaire à …………. (place name)

10. The importer
Some importers prefer to include their name on the label.

11. The grape variety
This is especially mentioned with wines from the “new world”, ie wines produced outside Europe.


What do the abbreviations mean on bottles of quality wine?


Q.B.A. – Qualitätswein bestimmter anbaugebiete

Q.B.A. M.PR. – Qualitätswein bestimmter anbaugebiete mit prädikat


A.C. – Appellation controlée

A.O.C. – Appellation d’origine controlée

V.D.Q.S. – Vin delimité de qualité supérieur


D.O.C. -Denominazione di origine controllata

D.O.C.G. – Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita


M.N. – Marque nationale


D.O. – Denominación de Origen

D.O.C. – Denominación de Origen Calificada


Mandatory markings on country wine bottles

Land wine is a wine that comes from a specific area and does not necessarily have to be inferior to a quality wine, but does not meet all the criteria to be a quality wine.

  • The word country wine (vin de pays, country wine, vino tipico, vino de la tierra)
  • The word table wine may also be used
  • Content
  • Alcohol percentage
  • Country of origin
  • The region where the wine comes from
  • Name of the bottler or the H.P.A. number