European and American wines have a lot in common. But there remain some key differences between the two that can impact your experience. As you try more and more of these wines, their unique qualities become even more apparent. Here are some of the major differences in the way wine from Europe is made and labeled versus wine from the United States.
1. What Grapes Were Used?
One of the most striking differences between European and American labels is the naming of the grapes. Specifically, American wines will tell you what type of grapes were used to make the wine. They even have rules in the U.S. governing this. For example, if a grape is named on a California wine, 75% of that grape must be used to make the wine. European labels typically don’t mention the type of grape used to make the wine.
2. The Locations Listed
A European wine is generally labeled by its growing region. Soil composition and climate can impact grapes, giving the wine a unique or subtle flavor. So wines produced from the five classic varietals in the Bordeaux region are called “Bordeaux.” But wines produced in the U.S. are more likely to be known by their creative brand names. At the same time, American wineries can use trademarked European names as long as there is a qualifier, such as “California Bordeaux.”
3. Alcohol Content
Lower alcohol content is the norm in European wines. This is partially due to the tradition of drinking wine with meals in Europe. But, in the United States, alcohol levels in wine have increased over the past several decades. This can make American wines more challenging to pair with food.
4. Government Warnings
Another interesting difference is that all grapes have sulfites in them. But American labels are required to note the presence of sulfites, and European ones are not. In the U.S., wine bottles must also carry the Surgeon’s General’s warning about alcohol consumption while driving or pregnant.
5. Wine Consumption
Over the years, wine consumption in both Europe and U.S. has changed a great deal. For example, Americans are drinking more wine, and wine consumption is actually falling in some European markets. This is complicated even more by the fact that Europeans don’t buy much American wine, but Americans do consume European labels.
6. Age of the Wineries
Of course, the European wine industry is much more established than its American counterpart. There are 10th generation winemakers in France and only a few 2nd generation or older ones in America. At the same time, the newer wineries in the U.S. are more likely to experiment and innovate. So, there is something to be said for a wine steeped in tradition as well as one that is willing to try something new.
7. Differences in Style
But how do they taste? At one point, it was thought that European wines were more acidic, less fruity, and more balanced than American ones. This may not be entirely accurate today as new growing regions and varieties have evolved.
For example, Washington and Oregon are now producing some highly-balanced wines that are reminiscent of some French varieties. And Portugal, Spain, and Southern France can produce fruity wines just as well as California.
8. Co-Ops Are Different
Both Europe and the U.S. have wine co-ops. But the way these function are completely different. In Europe, a label that is co-op is a group of growers and winemakers that pool their grapes, winemaking, and marketing resources. Together, they produce wine under a single label that is consistent and highly rated.
In the U.S., a co-op is simply a location where smaller wineries can lease space to produce their wine. In some instances, a winery will rent the total number of cases they plan to produce at a facility instead of the physical space.
9. Wine Labeling as Art
Most European wine labels chose a design that could be considered minimalistic. You aren’t likely to see anything flashy but rather get the information you need about the product. But American labels are more apt to be bold and artistic, showcasing the character of the underlying winery.
Need Help Choosing the Best Wine – European or American?
Whether you’re on team Europe or America when it comes to wine, you might still be wondering which type of wine or label should be in your grocery basket. Fortunately, Nick’s of Clinton can help. Nick’s is your hometown grocer in Southern Maryland, offering one of the largest varieties of wine, spirits, and beer in the region, also at the lowest prices. We’d be happy to offer suggestions and, if we don’t have what you need, we can special order it for you. Visit us today to discuss the items and quantities you need.