Say you're in the wine store and you want to buy something new. You have nothing to go by outside of the label. Will the label tell you anything you should know? There are a million caveats and exceptions, but here's some general advice:
Vintage. This is actually
the first thing we look for ourselves. You don't need to have a vintage chart in your pocket or care whether 2001 or 2002 was a better year in the Sierra Foothills. The vast majority of wines at the store are meant to be drunk right away, so you want to make sure the wine isn't too old, particularly if you're buying it expecting lively
, fresh fruitiness. We routinely see five-year-old Pinot Grigio and two-year-old Beaujolais Nouveau at stores, for example, so as soon as we see that kind of age on wines like those, we know we can skip them and move on (and possibly not shop there again).
葡萄酒年份 - 这实际上是我们要寻找的首要事情。您无需在口袋里放上一张葡萄酒年份表，或弄清楚到底是2001年还是2002年的在Sierra Foothills生长的葡萄更好。葡萄酒专卖店里的绝大多数葡萄酒是准备被立刻喝掉的，所以你要确保该酒还未存放过久，尤其是如果你是冲着那种充满活力的清新果香味而去的话。举例来说，我们经常在葡萄酒店里看到5年陈的比诺格里乔（Pinot Grigio）和2年陈的薄酒莱新酒（Beaujolais Nouveau）。每当我们看到这样酒龄标在这类的葡萄酒上，我们就知道可以走人了（也许不会再踏进这家店里）。
Alcohol content. Too many wines today have too much alcohol
, which leaves them unbalanced. Sure, there are some classic
wines with fairly high alcohol
levels, but many of today's regular table wines - Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Zinfandel - have levels at 15% or above. Some of those might be terrific
, but if we had nothing else to go on, we'd look for alcohol
content at about 14% and below.
酒精含量 - 如今太多的酒其酒精含量太高，这使得这些酒失去了平衡。当然，有一些经典葡萄酒其酒精含量确是相当高的，但今天许多的例行佐餐酒，如美乐（Merlot），霞多丽（Chardonnay），设拉子（Shiraz），增芳德（Zinfandel），酒精含量都在15％或以上。其中一些可能是很棒，但若是没有其它判断标准可供参考，我们还是会找酒精含量约为14％以下的葡萄酒。
Critter labels. In the past few years, there has been a profusion of inexpensive
wines with cute animals on the labels. We have tasted these wines and they are generally less attractive
than the labels. Of course, some good wines happen to have animals on the labels - consider Stag's Leap or Iron Horse from California, for instance
- but, especially when it comes to less-expensive wines, we'd avoid wines where the cute animal seems to be the main point of the wine. A humdinger of a tale about the animal is often a clue that this is a wine to avoid.
标签上的动物图案 - 在过去几年中，那些标有可爱动物的廉价葡萄酒大有泛滥之势。品尝了这些酒之后，我们发现其味道普遍没有标签那么有吸引力。当然，有些好酒恰恰是在其标签上印有动物图案的。例如，加州产的鹿跃酒（Stag's Leap）或铁马酒（Iron Horse）- 但是，说起不那么昂贵的葡萄酒时，我们最好还是别买那些似乎把动物图案作为主要卖点的葡萄酒。对动物的大肆渲染，往往是提示我们不要买这样的酒。
Geography. The more specific
the better. A wine that says it's from Napa is probably a better bet than a wine that simply says it's from California. It's the same way all over the world. Unfortunately, this will also probably be reflected in the price, so this might not tell you much about value. There are fabled vineyards around the world, plots of land famous for producing high-quality grapes. If you care enough to know a few of these, they might help you make an educated guess about quality.
产地 - 这方面的说明越具体越好。标明产自纳帕谷（Napa）的葡萄酒相对于笼统地标有产自加利福尼亚州的酒，前者可能是个更可靠的选择。这一点全世界无一例外。可惜的是，这点便利在价格上也会体现出来，因此在性价比上这或许帮不了你太多忙。目前世界各地有些传说中的著名葡萄园和能生长出高品质葡萄的地块，如果你能留心记住几个，那可能会有助你对酒质作出较有把握的猜测。
Estate-bottled. This means the people who made the wine also had a hand in growing the grapes on their own land. We generally find this a good sign.
葡萄园内装瓶 - 这意味着酿酒人也亲自动手在他自家地里种植葡萄。通常我们认为这是个好事。
Reserve. On American wines, this doesn't mean anything, so ignore
it. There are various rules around the world concerning
words like Reserva, but there's no guarantee
it means anything in other parts of the world. Unless you know something about the rules concerning
, say, Rioja, where it has genuinesignificance
, don't worry about it.
庄园精选 - 对美国葡萄酒而言，这种说法根本什么都没说，因此不妨忽略它。全世界有无数针对庄园精选的规矩，但谁也不能保证这些规矩在世界其它地区有什么意义。除非你懂些某些地区关于庄园精选的规定，例如，在西班牙里奥哈葡萄酒产地（Rioja），那里有真正意义上的区别，否则就不要在这方面费心了。
Old vines or vieilles vignes. Theoretically, older vines produce fewer, but more flavorful, grapes, but the problem is that no one has defined what an 'old vine' is, so anyone can put this on the label. Again, ignore
老葡萄树 - 理论上来说，老树的产量较少，但结的葡萄更可口。但问题是，没人曾为"老树"做过明确的定义，所以任何人都可以在标签上这样标明。所以，也别花心思在这上面。
A phone number. This will require some extra time, because we're talking about tiny type on the back of a label, but you'd be surprised how many small-production wines these days include a phone number on the back and an invitation
to call the winery. We have found that this is a sign of a highly personal winery. We have called those numbers many times over the years and it's amazing
how often the winemaker or winery owner answers the phone.
电话号码 - 这要你多花点时间，因为我们指的是酒瓶背面标签上的小字。但你会惊奇地发现，如今许多的小产量葡萄酒在瓶标签上印有电话号码并欢迎买主给酒庄去电。我们发现，这标志着这些酒庄极有个性。若干年来我们曾多次打过这些号码，酿酒师或酒庄老板亲自接电话的概率高得惊人。
Details, details, details. When we were young, we were fond of the late Hanns Kornell's Sehr Trocken, one of a handful
of sparkling wines he made at his California winery. On the back label was a hand-printed date of when the wine was 'disgorged,' when the sediment in the neck of a bottle of bubbly was removed and the temporary
cap replaced by a real cork. On the front of each bottle was this notation: 'Naturally fermented in this bottle,' which was a big deal because that's the way real Champagne is made, with the bubbly fermentationtaking
place in the bottle and not in a huge tank. We love information like that and some wineries still give it, including the dates when the grapes were harvested and the wine bottled. Details like these make the point that these things mattered to the winemaker and that he or she understands that they have meaning for the consumer
, too. They add to the feeling of the wine's authenticity.
细节，细节，还是细节 - 我们年轻时，喜欢已故的汉斯•科内尔（Hanns Kornell）的Sehr Trocken酒，这是在他加州的酒庄酿制的一种起泡酒。标签背面是手写的日期，标明酒是何时"酵母溶解"的、香槟酒的瓶颈处的沉淀物是何时被去除的以及真正的软木塞是何时替代了临时瓶盖。每个酒瓶正面那张标签还加上这段话："酒在此瓶中自然发酵"，可别小看这个，因为这才是真正的酿制香槟的方法，即酒在瓶中而不是在巨大的桶里发酵。我们喜欢诸如此类的信息，而一些酒厂至今仍会标上这些细节，包括葡萄收获和葡萄酒装瓶的日期。诸如此类的细节说明了酿酒师很在意这些信息，他或她明白这些细节对买家也是有意义的。它们增加了酒的正宗感。
(This article was adapted from a Wine Notes column
by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher published in January 2009.)
（本文改编自多萝西•盖特（Dorothy J. Gaiter）和约翰•布雷彻（John Brecher）于2009年1月发表的葡萄酒评论专栏。）