Wine labels are different from other beverage labels; they present their product in a specific way. Wine labels are not aimed at enticing buyers but at informing them about the qualities and the origin of the wine. The information on the label is strictly regulated. The signs and descriptions are standardized for all labels. There are no underwater rocks, ambiguities and tricks; it is all honest and truthful information. But of course you have to understand what you are reading.

1. Front and back labels The wine label always has two parts: front and back. This is because of the necessity to provide detailed information about the qualities and the origin of the wine.

2. Mandatory and optional information Information on the wine label is divided into mandatory and optional. The contents of the label have to correspond to the special legislation and European regulations. All the mandatory information should be displayed in one place – either on the front, or on the back label.

3. Mandatory information It is mandatory to state on the label the region and country of origin; producer and bottler (and merchant, for sparkling wines); category of the wine product, its alcohol content; sugar content (for the sparkling wines); the ℮ sign for nominal content; sulphite content; lot number; name of the importer.

4. Optional information It is optional to state on the label the vintage year; variety; sugar content (for non-sparkling wines); traditional name for wines coming from a particular region; terminology regarding the fermenting process; drinking recommendations; the wine-maker’s signature; information about medals and prizes; historical information about the wine or the producer; trade mark.

5. The origin of the wine Markings such as AOC, D.O.K., DOC, DOCG, DO, DOCa, and ЗНП, ГНП, ГКНП, ЗГУ, and regional (“регионално вино”) for the Bulgarian wines, describe the wine category. The category of the wine is determined by its origin. Highest quality wines are those with protected designation of origin (PDO). They are produced in small regions under strict regulations. Second come wines with protected geographical indication (PGI). Their production is allowed in a wider region, under milder regulations. The general rule is that the grapes and the wine are produced in the same region – with no exceptions. From 2008 onwards a new category of wine emerged, the so-called “varietal wines”. They do not have a region designation but they meet variety regulations.

6. Wine variety and vintage year Only wines with a label of origin can have the variety and the vintage year on their label. Wine producers that cannot prove the origin of their grapes nor the region where it was processed are not allowed to show variety and vintage information on the labels of their wine. Varietal wines are an exception to that only under the condition that they have undergone variety control.

7. Traditional names These include traditional descriptions of the wine in different countries. There are two types: designations related to the origin of the wine, and designations related to the production and/or cellaring process. For example, a traditional designation of origin would be “wine with a guaranteed and controlled designation” for the high class wines and “regional wine” for wines with protected geographical indication. Traditional production designations are an exciting element of choosing the right wine. In Bulgaria they are:

  • Premium – wine, produced from the best quality grapes from the harvest of one grape variety, with production quantities not exceeding one tenth of the whole harvest.
  • Premium oak – wine, cellared in new oak casks with volume not exceeding 500 l.
  • Premium Reserve – wine produced from one variety. From a reserved quantity of the best batch of the harvest.
  • Reserve – wine, produced from one grape variety, aged for one year starting in November of the harvest year.
  • Special Selection – wine aged for at least two years after the specified technological ageing period.
  • Special Reserve – wine aged in casks for at least one year after the specified technological ageing period.
  • Collection – wine which meets the criteria for “Special Reserve ” and has aged in bottles; quantities do not exceed one tenth of the whole harvest.

Traditional designations can be used only for labels of wines with designated origin.

8. Wine product category The product category is different from the wine category which was already described. For example, wine as a collective term comes within the “wine product” category. By definition, it is a beverage produced from the natural alcoholic fermentation process of crushed or uncrushed fruit of the Vitis vinifera species. The actual alcohol content cannot be less than 9 volume percent and more than 15 volume percent. Wines with alcohol content between 15 and 22 volume percent comprise a different category, liqueur wines. The regulations allow the term wine to be used for the designation of beverages produced from other fruit too, but indicating the type of fruit is mandatory.

9. Sulphite contents If the wine contains sulphites it is mandatory that they be indicated on the label. Standard indication includes an inscription “Contains sulphites”, or a pictogram:

Adding sulphites to wine is allowed as it preserves its quality for a longer period (conservation). It is accepted that very rarely sulphite content can lead to allergic reactions.

10. Sugar content for sparkling wines Mandatory terms for sugar content for sparkling wines are:

  • Brut Nature – sugar content less than 3 gr/litre
  • Extra Brut – sugar content between 0-6 gr/litre
  • Brut – sugar content less than 12 gr/litre
  • Extra Dry – sugar content between 12-17 gr/litre
  • Dry – sugar content between 17-32 gr/litre
  • Demi-Sec – sugar content between 32-50 gr/litre
  • Sweet – sugar content above 50 gr/litre

Ivana Murdzheva