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How to read an Australian wine label

Mandatory information requirements for labels of Australian wines, mean as a wine lover you can be assured of exactly what is in each wine bottle, who made it and where it came from – there’s no guess work involved.

While the label design differs for each wine company to reflect their personality, history and wine styles, all Australian wine labels must include the following:

  • Volume of wine e.g. 750ml
  • Country of origin e.g. Australia
  • Percentage of alcohol e.g. 13.5% ALC/VOL
  • Designation of product e.g. wine
  • Producer e.g. name and address
  • Additives e.g. preservative 220 added
  • Standard drinks e.g. approx. 8 Standard drinks
  • Allergen warnings e.g. this wine has been fined with fish, milk or egg products.

There are also a number of rules that apply to the information supplied about where the fruit for the wine came from, what varietal or varietals it’s made from, and also the vintage it was harvested in.

  • If the label states a specific vintage year, it must contain at least 85% of fruit from the stated year.
  • If it states a specific variety it must contain at least 85% of that variety e.g. Chardonnay, Shiraz or Riesling. If the wine contains 15% or more of a second varietal that also must be declared e.g.: Cabernet Merlot or Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.
  • If it states a specific regional origin or geographical indication (GI) it must contain at least 85% fruit from that region.

Front of the label

Generally a front label will include the following:

  • Producer’s company name
  • Brand name
  • Geographical indication/region
  • Prescribed name of grape variety or blend
  • Vintage
  • Volume statement.
  • Trophy or medal logo if it has any – awarded at Wine Shows, Trophy is the highest award. Wines can also be awarded a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal depending on the score they receive from the judging panel.

Back of label

Depending on the wine and the wine producer, the back label usually includes a brief blurb about the wine, winery, or winemaker, a tasting note or maybe the story behind the wine. It also includes:

  • Name and description of the wine
  • Alcohol statement
  • Standard drink labelling
  • Allergens declaration
  • Name and address of the wine producer
  • Country of origin

On the back labels of Australian biodynamic and organic wines labels, you may also see logos certifying their status.

Each wine label tells a story, so next time you pick out a bottle of wine, make sure you take the time to read its label – you’ll be surprised at what you can learn!

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What's in a label?
Words by Mark Hughes on 19 Aug 2017
I recently had the privilege of watching the legendary Liverpool FC towel up Sydney FC in a soccer friendly in a private suite at ANZ Stadium courtesy of Claymore Wines . The Clare Valley winery is owned by Adelaide doctor Anura Nitchingham, who became a lifelong Liverpool fan while attending university in the northern England city back in the 80s. Since founding his own winery, he’s been able take his fandom to the next level with the Claymore Wines Liverpool FC range , hence the invite to the match. During the half-time break, with the Reds comfortably leading 3-0, I observed a young couple at the bar looking through the range of Claymore Wines on offer. “Can I try the Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc …I just love Prince,” the young lass asked of the barmaid. “I’ll have the London Calling,” said he, seemingly unaware of the varietal. It’s a Cabernet Malbec blend, by the way, and a good one, having recently won Platinum  at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Besides football, Anura’s other great love is music. So instead of having wines like a ‘single vineyard Shiraz’, Claymore’s labels bear the name of some of Anura’s favourite songs and albums, such as the Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz, Joshua Tree Riesling and Voodoo Child Chardonnay. “I just wanted to have some fun,” Anura tells me when I ask him the reasoning behind the labels. “After all, wine is meant to be fun, right?” Marketing Wine to Millennials
While it does seem fun, Claymore’s labels seem to fly in the face of traditional wine marketing, where the producer’s logo is consistent across all their wines and information such as varietal, origin and vintage is first and foremost. “It was a struggle early on because the inconsistent branding was deemed anti-marketing,” admits Claymore’s general manager, Carissa Major. “But once we explained the story, we had a more personal conversation with the customer. Now, people come to our cellar door, pick up a Bittersweet Symphony (Cab Sav) and say, ‘this is from my generation, I get it’. The labels were never meant to be a gimmick, they are the sound track to Anura’s life. But marketing-wise today, they present exciting opportunities rather than barriers.” Recent studies from California State University help explain the marketing swing. Researchers looked at the fastest growing buyer market in wine – millennials – people born after 1980, so termed because they hit maturity at the turn of the millennium. This generation is cashed up, brand savvy and, most importantly, they are on the verge of overtaking baby boomers as the biggest buyers of wine. The university study found that millennials prefer wine labels that are brightly coloured, less traditional, more graphically focused and feature creative brand names. If you’re a wine producer listening to a baby boomer marketer, maybe it’s time to think outside the box. The story of Fowles Wine’s Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch is a great example. The label shows an art deco-style image of a lady in her finery out for a hunt. “My wife designs the labels and we actually took advice from a leading marketer about whether this was a good idea. Their response? No!,” explains Fowles Wines owner, Matt Fowles. “We ultimately disagreed and released the wines, but it was useful advice in the sense that it was liberating. We thought, if there is no place in the market for this, then we should just do the designs we really love, so we did. It was all a bit of fun and, surprise, surprise, they sell well.” Art for art’s sake
Riverland producer Delinquente Wine Co. has taken label art in an even more contemporary direction channelling a punk ethos on their wines such as The Bullet Dodger Montepulciano and the Screaming Betty Vermentino. “The starting point with the artwork for Delinquente was to do something very different to traditional wine labels, but also to represent things we have a passion for, like street art and alternative culture,’ says winemaker/owner Con-Greg Grigoriou. “The art represents our ideas and allows us to connect with people in an interesting way. We all know a ‘Screaming Betty’, or would at least like to party with her. So they have taken on a life of their own.” Not everyone is a fan. Seventy-nine-year-old wine critic James Halliday described Delinquente Wines as setting “the new low water-mark” for labels in Australia. But he likes their wines. And that’s the thing, the wine has to be good to get the buyer to keep coming back. These days, wine is fashion and bottle shop aisles are the catwalks. Marketing a label is just as important as the wine inside the bottle. Get both right and you could just make it. Traditionalists will most likely continue to stock their cellars with family crested bottles. The millennials crave new and exciting. As for me, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.
Celebrating 150 years of Best’s Great Western
Iconic Victorian, family owned winery, Best’s Great Western is in celebration mode this year with 2016 marking their 150th anniversary. Here at Wine Selectors we’ve proudly been working with Best’s Great Western for over 20 years and we’re excited to be a part of their amazing history. Established by the Best family in 1866, and owned by the Thomson family since founder Henry Best’s death in 1920, the estate is home to some of Australia’s oldest and most significant vineyards. “His determination, flare, and pioneering spirit are been huge qualities that I admire greatly. I'm extremely fortunate to work with my father Dominique and share his same vision for quality.” Patriarch and fourth generation winemaker Eric (Viv) Thomson is currently overseeing his 55th consecutive vintage and Best’s is now managed by his son Ben who is also the vineyard manager and Best’s talented winemaker, Justin Purser. “I’ve been working with Viv since the 1990s and what is truly impressive about Best’s Great Western is they consistently deliver exceptional wine at great value year after year – that’s why we love their wines,” says Trent Mannell, Wine Selectors Panel Member and senior buyer. “I love visiting their winery in the Grampians, it’s full of original equipment and the barrel stores and cellars are just amazing. When you walk in there you can smell the history.” “ While we’re celebrating 150 years of winemaking, our philosophy at Best’s remains the same as in the beginning – great wines are made in the vineyard,” says Best’s Great Western’s winemaker Justin Purser. “Even while practicing a minimalist approach, attention to detail is key. At Best’s, we avoid the overpowering use of oak or additional treatments. Instead, we prefer to let the fantastic fruit from Great Western tell the story.” Victoria’s historical home of Shiraz, Best’s Great Western produces superb cool climate, aromatic Shiraz including their Bin 1 Shiraz that’s made in a style that is floral, spicy and peppery yet retains generous fruit characteristics and intensity. In 2013 their 2011 Bin 1 Shiraz won the highly-esteemed Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show and also received the Fine Wine Partners Trophy for Australia’s Wine of the Year. The 2013 vintage has already been awarded a Trophy and a Gold medal. We have Best’s Great Western Bin 1 Shiraz 2013 on tasting at our Cellar Doors at Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth domestic airport terminals during March, so if you’re travelling please join us to experience a little taste of Best’s ongoing dedication to excellence. For more Best’s Great Western wines click here
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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