If the grapes aren't labeled on a wine, is it made from sugar?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

If there's no grape mentioned on a wine label, is it true that that means the wine is made from sugar?

—Pat, St. Louis, Mo.

Dear Pat,

Nope, that’s not true. What is true is that wine is made by fermenting grapes, and that process involves yeast converting the sugar in the grapes into alcohol.

There are plenty of wonderful wines that do not list the grapes on the labels. Starting with … most of the wines of Europe! In countries like Italy and France, wines are labeled with the region they are from—you’ll see words like “Bordeaux,“ “Burgundy” or “Barolo.” That’s how the wines are defined, because only specific grapes are permitted to be grown in those regions. But the grapes themselves are usually not listed.

In other parts of the world, you’ll often see grapes listed on the label, in addition to where the grapes were grown—but not always. Many wines, from popular supermarket blends to some of the most sought-after Napa Valley reds like Opus One or Joseph Phelps Insignia, are blends that do not list the grapes but are just defined by their wine name. The blend could be considered proprietary, or simply focusing on a house style might be more important to a wine’s brand than the specifics of the blend.

And even if a wine does have the word “Chardonnay” on it, that doesn't mean the wine is necessarily made entirely from Chardonnay. Labeling laws can allow for as much as 25 percent of that wine to be made from grapes other than Chardonnay.

—Dr. Vinny

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