Wine label

Wine label

Wine labels are important sources of information for consumers since they tell the type and origin of the wine. The label is often the only resource a buyer has for evaluating the wine before purchasing it. Certain information is ordinarily included in the wine label, such as the country of origin, quality, type of wine, alcoholic degree, producer, bottler, or importer.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.]

Information provided

Label design

Some wineries place great importance on the label design while others do not. There are wineries that have not changed their label's design in over 60 years, as in the case of Château Simone, while others hire designers every year to change it. Labels may include images of works by Picasso, Chagall, and other artists, and these may be collector's pieces.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] The elegance of the label does not determine the wine's quality. Instead, it is the information contained within the label that can provide consumers with such knowledge.

Most New World consumers and increasingly, European consumers, prefer to purchase wine with varietal labels and/or with brand name labels. A recent study of younger wine drinkers in the U.S. found that they perceived labels with châteaux on them to be stuffy or old-fashioned. Producers often attempt to make selecting and purchasing wine easy and non-intimidating by making their labels playful and inviting. [ Franson, Paul. Labels gone wild. "Wine Enthusiast", 2006 (March), "19(3)", 28-33.] The financial success of New World wine attributed to striking label designs have lead European producers to follow suit, as in the case of the redesign of Mouton Cadet.cite web|last= Benady |first= David, "Design Week" |title= Wine label branding off the shelf |url= |date= March 19, 2008 ]

Differences by country

Wine classification systems differ by country. Wines may be classified by region and area only, which can be confusing to consumers.Fact|date=March 2008 For example, there are 151 châteaux in Bordeaux with "Figeac" and 22 estates in Burgundy with "Corton" on their labels. In Burgundy, there are 110 appellations in an area only one-fifth the size of Bordeaux. Complicating the system is the fact that it is common for villages to append the name of their most famous vineyard to that of the village. This promotes sales but confuses consumers.

In Spain and Portugal, the authenticity of the wine is guaranteed by a seal on the label or a band over the cork under the capsule.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] This is promulgated by the grower's association in each area.

German wine labels are particularly noted for the detail that they can provide in determining quality and style of the wine.

Almost every New World wine is labeled by grape variety and geographic origin. Semi-generic designations were once quite common in countries such as Australia and the USA, but the wine authorities in areas such as Champagne have not been afraid to bring lawsuits against the use of their names outside their region, and semi-generic names are falling out of use.

Wines whose label does not indicate the name of the winery or the winemaker is referred to as "cleanskin" wine, particularly in Australia.

Importance of labels in different types of wine

The information contained in labels is important to determine the quality of the wine. For example, great importance needs to be attached to vintage dates when there are differences in climate.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] The taste and quality of the wine can change from year to year depending on the climate. Knowing the vintage is specially important when buying fine wines because the quality of the wine can vary from year to year due to climatic differences. The quickest way to determine the quality of the year is to use a wine chart.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.]

Vintage dates may not be important, for example, there are no vintage dates on bottles of sherry.On the other hand, wines may or may not have vintages. Champagne is usually a blend from more than one year and only sometimes sold as a vintage wine. Also, Port is only sold with a vintage in years of exceptional quality.

Bottler and importer information

A wine label may include the producer, the bottler and the merchant's names. The bottler's name must always be included in the label. The importer's name must be included in the label only for countries outside the Common Market. While it is not necessary for a wine to be bottled at its place of origin, it is obligatory for classed growth claret and vintage port to be bottled in Bordeaux and Oporto.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] Also, bottling of Alsace must be done within the appellation.George, Rosemary, The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder, 1989.] Thus, it is important to look for terms such as "mis en bouteille au château" or "mis au domaine" because they tell you the wine is estate bottled.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.]

Misleading information

Labels may include fancy terms that are often misleading. The term "Blanc de blancs" may be included in a label. This term means "white wine made from white grapes". The fact is that white wines, with the exception of certain sparkling wines, are made from white grapes. Thus, the term is not really telling you anything new.Although the word "château" is most associated with Bordeaux, it does not mean that the wine does come from Bordeaux, and there may not be any kind of building - let alone a château - associated with the vineyard. The name château can even be included in wines from Australia or California. Labels of Vin de pays never include the word château.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.]

Cru, a word used to classify wines can mean different things. For example, in the Médoc part of Bordeaux, this terms means the château is one of the classified growths in the regions. In St-Emilion, the term cru is of little importance since it bears little relation to quality. For Provence the term cru classé is included only for historical reasons. On the other hand, the use of the term cru in Switzerland has no foundation and it is included at the producer's discretion.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.]

Neck and back labels

Neck and/or back labels may appear on a bottle. The neck label may include the vintage date and the back label usually gives extra (and usually optional) information about the wine. Government required warnings are usually found in the back label, as well as UPC codes. For example, the United States requires alcoholic beverages to include a warning regarding the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. The label also has to mention the possibility of a reduced ability to drive while intoxicated.It is also a requirement in the United States that wines mention whether or not they contain sulfites.

Wine laws

There are different reasons for wine laws. Labeling regulations can be intended to prevent wine from sounding better than it is.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] Also, it is illegal to say that a wine is made from one grape when it is actually from another.

The label must also include the name and address of the bottler of the wine. If the producer is not the bottler, the bottle will say that the wine was bottled by X bottled for Y producer.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] Table wines may carry the name of the bottler and the postal code. The label must also include the country of origin.

The size of the font is also regulated for mandatory information. Alcohol content must be included in the label. In Australia and the United States a wine label must also mention that it has sulfites in certain circumstances. [ [ Wine Label Regulations] summary from the US Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (July 2006).]

Regulations may permit table wines to be labelled with only the colour and flavour, and no indication of quality.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] The use of words such as Cuveé and grand vin in labels is controlled.George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.] As mentioned above, a vin de pays must never be from a château, but from a domaine.

Allergen Warnings

New Zealand and Australian labeling regulations have required an allergen warning to appear on wine labels since 2002 due to the use of egg whites, milk, and isinglass [Food Standards Australian and New Zealand (2004) [ Wine and the labelling of certain substances that may cause adverse reactions] ] in the fining and clarifying of the wine. The United States is considering similar requirements. Winemakers in the U.S. have been resistant to this requirement since not every wine is put through a fining process, with the decision to do such a process normally not being made till long after the labels have already been ordered. This could mean that bottles would be label with an allergen warning when there have no exposure to the allergen at all. [ D. Sogg "Wine Producers Struggle With Proposal to Require Allergen Warnings" Wine Spectator pg 22 31 March 2007 ]


Wine labels have long been collected. This can turn into a full-fledged hobby, with collections organized by theme, country, or region. For others, saving labels may be part of maintaining a wine tasting-notes journal, or just simply to remember a particular wine.

While labels were once easily steamed off, recent automatic bottling and labeling processes at wineries have led to the use of stronger glues. Removing these labels is often difficult and may result in considerable damage to the label. A recent, though by no means universal, innovation to bypass this problem is the use of bottles that come with the ability to tear off a small part of the label in order to remind the drinker of the name and bearing of the wine.

If full label removal is desired, a common approach involves putting hot water inside the bottle which makes the hold of the glue weaker. A knife can then be used to remove the label from one side by lifting it off with even pressure.

Commercial label removal kits apply a strong, transparent sticker over the label surface. The goal is to carefully pull off the sticker and literally tear the front design of the label away from the glued back. In practice, varying degrees of success are encountered and extensive damage to the label can occur.


Creating custom wine labels has gained popularity over the years, with people needing labels for wedding favors, holiday gifts, and promotional campaigns. This is often carried out by specialist companies to avoid any breaches of wine law.

The increase in home wine making has contributed significantly, with hundreds of thousands of people around the world making their own wine instead of buying it. These people often make their own labels as well, or use online label companies. Homemade labels range from ink jet printing on copy paper and adhered with milk, to high quality designs printed on expensive label stock and printed with laser printers.


* Franson, Paul. Labels gone wild. "Wine Enthusiast", 2006 (March), "19(3)", 28-33.
* George, Rosemary, "The Simon & Schuster Pocket Wine Label Decoder", 1989.


External links

* [ Information about wine labels and collecting]
* [ The Artist Wine Labels of Château Mouton Rothschild]

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