Learning About Wine

Labels, Schmabels

It’s not just our tongues that affect our impressions of wine. You and I know this, of course, since we talk about the smell and look of a wine every time we taste something new. But what about the label? How does that affect our impression of the wine?

Labels influence the drinker, and are not to be underestimated. The label can mean many different things, but when it really comes down to it the label is a reflection on how the company wants you to view the wine. It’s all marketing, and the aim is to match the wine to the drinker its intended for.   So How Do They Influence You, REALLY? Old world (eg. France, Italy, Spain) wine labels tend to have pictures of vineyards and castles on them, and the language (when it’s in English) highlights history and tradition. These bottles are signalling that they are to be taken seriously.

“Look at my maturity and hidden depths! Sip me while reading Foucault and pondering the virtues of humanity.”  – Old world label

New world wine labels (eg. California, Australia, Canada) tend to have more modern labels, with quirky images and names and vibrant colours. These bottles are signalling that they are friendly and accessible.

“Hey, girl, hey. I’m like that person you’re eyeing from across the room, all mysterious and cool. Have a glass of me at the cottage after a day of wakeboarding.”  – New world label

I did disagree with this video’s opinion of sommeliers – bus boys with dubious credentials who happen to know a lot about wine? Ouch! This video doesn’t give somms enough credit – those people really do have a fair bit of training and tasting. However, this was still an enjoyable video. I recommend a watch if you’re into wine or psychology – or both, like me!

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  • Reply prgirltoronto February 23, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    When I pick a wine for a dinner party, I usually go for the quirky, fun label which will start a conversation.

    • Reply meg February 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      That’s a good idea! I should do that the next time I go to a dinner party.

  • Reply winegetsbetterwithage February 24, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Have you seen that documentary Somm? It’s on Netflix if you haven’t. They’ve trained harder for their profession than most people I know.

    • Reply meg February 24, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      I have, I love that movie. I keep foisting it on all the wine drinkers I know. Did you know the people who made it are putting out another movie? On the making of wine. I can’t wait.

  • Reply B Law March 3, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Hey, why am I not surprised? I think labels influence anything. When you see some of the clothing that is considered haute couture…!

    I am not a drinker so I don’t think labels will directly influence me that much — because I’d be clueless about whether it’s a ‘good’ label or not. But I can see how easily the ‘taste’ can be influenced.

    • Reply meg March 4, 2015 at 12:47 am

      A good label is just the one that speaks to you, or the one that correctly signals what the wine will be all about. I’m sure you use labels to make decisions all the time with other things!

  • Reply michaelirvine88 March 31, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Everything you said resonated with me!

    I’m ridiculously influenced by labeling. That, and the price. It’s amazing how you can make a snap decision about how to spend $10-$15 based on a pretty picture. But the wine market is so fragmented (compared with beer and spirits) that it’s hard to have any brand loyalty.

    Do you have any tips for choosing good wines besides impulsively grabbing the one which has the most noteworthy label?

    • Reply meg April 1, 2015 at 10:59 am

      I am too! I could seriously spend a lot of time (… and sometimes do…) wandering the aisles looking at labels and wondering what the winery is trying to tell me.

      My general advice is to avoid choosing wines with animals on the label. In my experience those wines are cheaply made and sub-par. New World wines have more modern style labels and will often taste brighter and have less depth going on in the flavour. Old World wines will have more traditional labels and will have a better chance of having good body and depth of flavour. And when in doubt, Italy is always a good fall back.

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