Wine Talk

Snooth User: napagirl68

How to read European labels.. for the California-challenged.

Posted by napagirl68, Sep 12, 2010.


I had this wine at a SF restaurant recently:

2001 Valpolicella Ripasso, Brolo Delle Giare

I liked it.  Tried to look it up online and got thousands of hits for partial keywords.  I did research that Valpolicella is a region of Italy, I would assume that Brolo Delle Giare is the winery?  I read that this region makes a few different styes of wine- I have had amarone in the past and did not like it, but maybe I had a bad rendition of it.

Any advice/recommendations?


Reply by dmcker, Sep 13, 2010.

You may not have noticed Tezza at the bottom of the label. It's the winery. Brolo Delle Giare is one of their line of bottlings, and a Ripasso style Valpolicella (which is both a location and a classification of wines thanks to the DOC and other regs) is what you had. Tezza (and Valpolicella with all its subsidiary DOCs) are in the Veneto. Ripasso is a recently increasing style of amping up Valpolicella Superiore where some of the leftovers from the Amarone fermentation process (dried grape skins, etc.) are thrown in the tank to provide more complexity. You can starting reading more about Valpolicella at Wikipedia

Here's the winery's page for the wine. It's in Italian, not that that makes much difference because there's virtually no description (not really any scope for Google Translate there). There's an English button for the website, but it does zilch. Found some tasting notes for other Tezza wines, but not this one.

Tezza's not my favorite from Veneto, but I'd like to hear from GDP on his views here....

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 13, 2010.

Thanks Dmcker!!!!

I am still learning how to read the foreign labels since I don't drink them much. 

This was my very first Valpolicella... I'm sure there are better ones.  I had a glass of this in an Italian restaurant.  would love to hear more about good wines from this region.  Will look here on Snooth.


Reply by dmcker, Sep 13, 2010.

What you really should do, Napagirl, is book a vacation in Venice with your family. You might want to pick up some nice wine glasses and decanter or two, you might want to take a gondola ride or two, you might even take an excursion or two out of that sunken, aged but somehow-so-exotically-erotically-sweet museum of a city into the countryside (and if you also want to party I know a crazy Venetian or two). But amongst all the options, I'm sure you'll find a lot of wine (and food) that will rock your world....

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 15, 2010.

Now, if you don't have the time or money to go to Italy and see for yourself, there's a good guide to reading wine labels in the back of "The New Wine Lovers Companion," by Herbst and Herbst.   I see a new one came out on 1/1/10, and I have to think they included the appendix on wine labels (great illustrations!)  in the latest edition.  It's really helpful for France, where the appellation takes prominence and the maker can be crucially important in a non-monopole vineyard. The book itself is really great, very accurate (not perfect, but neither am I, and they know a ton more than I do).  Largely free of prejudices, although I think they don't give grenache its due. NG, I probably even know which bookstore has it near you!

Understanding what I was drinking made expanding my horizons much more enjoyable--every label told me something about a place I had been or wished I could go.  Now, if only I could make some sense of the German system...

Reply by dmcker, Sep 15, 2010.

I definitely agree that it's always so much more interesting and fun when you understand what you're getting into, and its context.

What's so hard about the German labels, oh vulpine one?

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Sep 16, 2010.

If in doubt consult the font of all knowledge


Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 16, 2010.

dmcker:  Mostly it's my own laziness and a failure to appreciate riesling and the relatively few reds that Germany produces. A little embarassing that I can't make more sense of einzellage, grosslage, bereiche and all the other terms, since I grew up saying my nighttime prayers (kids used to do that!) in German:  My dad's mother traced her roots to Alsace-Lorraine on the German side of the line, last name Ehrmeyer. I do find the classification system just a little off-putting, since it's based on sugar levels, essentially, and I am not a sweet wine drinker.  I did have a Kabinett the other night with my spicy Asian food, but I don't take a lot of chances or spend much of my wine money on it.  I'm told that what I drank was mediocre peasant wine, and I wouldn't doubt it. Apparently, some producers agree that the official classification system doesn't work for dry wine drinkers like me, and hence the VDP has created its own systems.  If I wanted to google every wine I bought using my Droid, I guess I could do it, but I can barely drink all the local, French, Italian, and Spanish wine I want to try.  Never mind the odd bit of South African, Aussie, Chilean, and anyone else who makes good reds and crisp whites.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 16, 2010.

NG: dmcker recommended on another thread that you visit Kermit Lynch and North Berkeley as places with good European selections where the staff can help you learn to decipher the label.  I want to add WineMine and Paul Marcus.  WineMine is on Telegraph right off Hwy 24, David is really helpful, and carries about 70% Euro.  Paul Marcus is the one in Rockridge MarketHall, probably 80% Euro, the staff is helpful but more varied than WineMine, which feels like a one man show in a good way.  Lynch will have lots of old-school French bottles, esp southern Rhones, with labels that look as French labels do.  They do a lot of direct importing and champion small vintners.  WineMine will usually be a buck cheaper than anywhere if they carry the wine--there have been rare exceptions for huge volume discounts that David can't devote the inventory to, but I hardly ever price check him because he runs such a low-overhead operation and I have only once seen him beat on price. North Berkeley also imports really good wine, but I never make it up there, and buy it at other shops, like the ones mentioned here and Vintage Berkeley. 

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 16, 2010.

I like Paul marcus.. didn't remember the name, but I think you told me it was the one around the corner from Oliveto.  I haven't been there in years... will have to go back.

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