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European wine labels: place comes first

European wine labels can be intimidating, at least until you learn the secrets of interpreting them. Keep in mind most wines are labeled by place, and that each place has laws that dictate what grapes can be in the bottle.

This came about because in the early 20th century, with trains and trucks now able to ship massive amounts of wine to far off lands, greed set in and some bad players put grapes from other regions or other countries into their bottles labeled from a specific place. In Champagne in particular, it was found that grapes from Algeria were being used to bulk up production, much to the chagrin of the farmers. A riot ensued, and laws were then put in place that became the model for Europe.

More links for learning about labels

Wine Enthusiast: How to learn almost everything from a wine label

Cellarmasters: How to read a European wine label

WineSearcher: European Union Wine Label Information

WineFolly: Decoding French Wine Labels and Terms

WineFolly: How to Read Italian Wine Labels

Decanter: How to Read a Spanish Wine Label

Dummies: How to decipher European Wine Labels