The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a wonder guide on what a wine label can tell you.
I find the follow tips to be very helpful.
Vintage: Most stores stock wine that is meant to be drunk right away. So if you see a 5 year old Pinot Grigio you should move on to the next bin.
Alcohol Content: Look for wines with an alcohol content of 14% or less. Wines with higher alcohol content tend to be unbalanced.
Cute Critters: Inexpensive wines with cute animals should also be avoided – especially if the critter has a long story. There are some exceptions to this rule such as Stag’s Leap or Iron Horse.
Estate Bottled: It’s generally a good sign when the people who made the wine also had a hand in growing the grapes on their own land.
Phone Number: A highly personal winery will print their phone number on the label with an invitation to call. Be mindful that you may have to search some very fine print to find it.
Other Details: If the winery adds extra information such as harvest date or when the wine was disgorged then you know that they are trying to communicate with the consumer.