Understanding Aussie and Kiwi Wine Labels - dummies

Understanding Aussie and Kiwi Wine Labels

By Maryann Egan

Every piece of information on an Aussie or Kiwi wine label must be accurate. Federal and state legislation covers the labeling of wines in Australia and New Zealand, like any product.

The mandatory wine label items include:

  • The name and address of the wine company: This information is legally more important than the winery’s name, trademark or brand name! The address must not be a post office address.

  • The country of origin: The label must state which country the wine comes from. And, in the unusual yet occasional situation when some wine from another country is blended in with an Australian wine, this mix of origin must be stated on the label as a percentage, for example, 75 percent Australian wine plus 25 percent Chilean.

  • The volume of wine: The volume of wine must be on the front label; that is, the label that is the main face and that is exposed to the consumer. This information must also be in a font that is greater than 3.3 mm high.

  • Any additives or processing aids: From 2003, all Australian wine labels must state all products used in the winemaking process. The reason behind this is to warn anyone who has an allergic reaction to any of these products. Consequently, you may find reference to egg products (egg whites), beef tissue (gelatin) or fish tissue (isinglass) on a wine label. These processing aids are sometimes used to clarify the wine and, although it is very unlikely that any of these products remain after the wine has been racked, filtered and bottled, they must be listed on the label if any trace is likely to remain.

  • The variety: If the label says Cabernet Sauvignon then the wine must be between 85 percent and 100 percent from that variety of grape. Any added variety doesn’t have to be declared. If more than one variety is listed on the label, then the one used in the biggest proportion is listed first. So in a Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvèdre blend, Grenache makes up the largest portion, Shiraz the second, and so on. The actual proportions don’t have to be listed, although you may sometimes find this as part of the back label blurb.

  • A description of the wine: Listing the variety or varieties of grape in the wine isn’t mandatory. However, a description of the wine must be included if the variety isn’t listed. So, instead of listing the blend — for example Shiraz, Cabernet, Durif, and Malbec — you can state that it is a ‘dry red wine’.

  • The percentage of alcohol and the number of standard drinks per bottle: Australia has a law that states that the label of any alcoholic beverage must convey the number of ‘standard drinks’ per bottle. Basically, this information is to save you from doing the calculations for yourself by giving you some idea as to how much alcohol you’ve drunk, thereby guiding you as to whether you’re under the legal limit to drive or operate machinery, for example.