Thursday, October 3, 2013

What's in a Wine Label?

Ever find yourself in the wine department of the liquor store staring at all the different labels on the bottles? It is a hard decision isn't it? Almost every one of them have very interesting designs, pictures or artwork on the label that can help captivate your eye. A lot about choosing a wine has to deal with the label itself and this becomes an important part in helping to market their product.

I know I have chosen a wine just because of the label, hoping it was a reflection of the quality of what is inside. I will admit, there are times that I have been disappointed. There is so much to choose from, so what is actually all in a wine label? I found an interesting article that may help explain some of it.

First of all, on every label, you will find the legal mumbo jumbo. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is in place to regulate the “truth in advertising” for all alcoholic beverages. These regulations are in place to protect the consumer - every beverage must have it. In regard to wine, they are in place to prevent a wine from sounding better than it really is or falsely using one particular grape when in fact it is made from a another. If these were not in place, we consumers could be often mislead into spending more on a wine than it may be worth.

Each label must contain the name and address, including country of origin, of the bottler of the wine. The date is important because it helps determine the quality of the wine. All the different flavor characteristics can vary from year to year depending on the climate, and consumers should be privy to this information. Finally, the label must contain alcohol content, and in both Australia and the United States, it must also mention if sulfites are added to the wine.

When sulfites are added, they are introduced to arrest fermentation at a desired time and/or as a preservative to prevent spoilage and oxidation at different stages of the wine making process. Basically, without sulfites, grape juice would turn to vinegar. However, sulfites occur naturally in all wines to some extent, including organic wines. So what does this mean to us? Many feel that sulfites are given a bad rap, but did you know that there are more sulfites in processed meats than in wine? It is also theory that sulfites are what cause the headache the morning after.

Beyond what has to be on the label as regulated by the government, many wineries place great importance on the design of the label. There are others that do not. While some have had the same label for 50+ years, some change every year to keep the look fresh. Although the label does not determine the wine's quality, the pictures, designs or artwork are what help sell it. Some wineries can afford the extra money to place in the design and marketing of the label. They hope to make selecting a wine easy and non-intimidating by making their labels playful and inviting. Others just have to keep it simple.

Whether wine labels are simple or elaborate art pieces, they are often collector's items. There are very interesting labels out there and oftentimes, people end up collecting them. To some, it has become a hobby where collections consist of different countries, regions or even styles of wine. These collections become a memory of a particular event or wine itself that they will always want to remember.

Click here to read the article. It will help explain other terms that are often found on labels that you may come across as you stare at all those choices.

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