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The Anatomy of a Wine Label: Everything You Need to Include on the Bottle


Wine labels can be as complex as the contents inside their containers. In addition to looking good, these labels must provide a lot of information for both intrigued customers and government entities. There is a lot to know about a bottle of wine, and it’s the label’s job to communicate that to the consumer.

As we recently discussed, the use of “wine labels” dates all the way back to ancient Egypt, with seals and etchings put in place to improve trade. Over centuries, the practice has evolved a great deal. Now there are federal rules and regulations to obey. Some information is mandatory, and some is nice to have, but everything on your wine labels is meant to properly reflect the quality of the contents within.

From crucial details like the brand, year, and region to more fun facts like flavor notes and pairing suggestions, your label is a story with a designated hierarchy to help you tell the tale. There’s also a good chance that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates a lot of what details are required and how you list them. Here’s a breakdown of everything you can include on wine labels – and some guidance on how you should present them.

What Information is Included on Wine Labels?

A drawing of a bottle with a breakdown of all the information that’s included on wine labels.

Brand Name

Who made the wine? The maker’s branding will usually appear at the top or bottom of the label (like many French wine labels).

Fanciful Name

What’s the name for this specific wine? While not mandatory, it’s not uncommon for wine labels to feature a secondary name to differentiate separate brands within the same winery.

Year/Vintage

When were the grapes harvested? This information, while not mandatory, is common among wine labels as it speaks to the quality of the bottle’s contents, especially if you’re up on your vintage variations.

Wine Type

As you may have guessed, what kind of wine is in your bottle? This is where the grape or varietal type is communicated, e.g., Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, etc. It’s required for wines to list a type on the label. In addition, wines that call out a specific varietal name must derive at least 75 percent of the product from the specified grape. Otherwise, the label should have a generic name like “red wine” or something similar.

Region

Where was the wine made? The region of origin breaks down in a few different ways, and there are rules that apply to listing geographic information on wine labels. If a state or county is named, it is federal law that at least 75 percent of the grapes used in production come from said location. If an AVA is cited (an American viticultural area, e.g., Napa Valley), the law states that at least 85 percent of the grapes must come from said area. Certain states also have their own regional laws. For example, California law mandates that 100 percent of the grapes must come from California if the state is named on the bottle.

Producer & Bottler

Where was your product made and bottled? If this location differs from the winery or vineyard, you must print both the name and address of this location on the label.

Alcohol Content

What is the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV)? Unless it can be deduced from its class (e.g., table wine suggests an ABV of 14 percent or less), this number is required on every label.

Net Contents

How much wine is in the bottle? Whether it’s printed on the label or blown into the glass, this number (expressed in milliliters) must be present on every bottle.

Sulfite Warning

Does this wine have more than 10 parts per million of sulfur dioxide or more? If so, your label must bear a warning that says “CONTAINS SULFITES.”

Government Warning (Most often on back label)

The Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act (November, 1988) requires that every label of an alcoholic beverage bare a specific government warning that states:

Government Warning:

(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

(2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.”

Anything Else

Additional messaging may appear on the back label, such as pairing suggestions, flavor notes, and possibly some history on the winery or vineyard. These fun facts are not mandatory, but can serve as helpful hints for thirsty wine enthusiast. You could even include serving facts if you want, although the TTB doesn’t require them for wine labels. Extra details or information can add to the way people perceive our products, so don’t be afraid to add something if it makes sense for your brand.

A TTB compliant wine label featuring necessary legal information.

Make Your Wine Labels Stand Out from the Crowd

Now that you’ve got the crucial information down, it’s time to add the touches that will talk it off the shelf. Blue Label Digital Printing offers special features and fine materials to help you create a custom wine label that will do your product justice.

There are plenty of ways to help you communicate the quality and style of your wine through packaging. If you’ve got a bold and complex Cabernet, a matte material seems like a nice pairing. A light, crisp Sauvignon Blanc? A glossy finish has a nice effect! Got an organic grape? An earthy craft paper is an excellent choice. Once you’ve chosen your material, consider special treatments for a little something extra. Spot varnishes are a great way to highlight the information you’re particularly proud of (e.g., a private reserve; a vintner’s selection) or a special design element. Also, details like hot foil stamping and embossed textures add a level of sophistication wine lovers will appreciate.

Your custom wine labels deserve the very best. Our facility offers the highest quality, the most flexibility, and the fastest turnaround times three to five days from the time you submit your order (because not everything gets better with age). Get in touch with us today to get the barrel rolling on your next wine label project. Cheers!