Wine Labels: What They Tell Us & What They Don’t
If you’ve taken a stroll through the wine aisle of your local grocery store recently, you know just how daunting it can feel to pick a good bottle.
You can choose from domestic or imported wine, sparkling or flat wine, whites, reds, pinks (rosés), blends, and on and on… until you finally decide to just buy a wine pretty much at random, often based on price and how much you you can relate to the label!
If this feels anything like your experience then perhaps it is time to learn a little something about wine labels.
Labeling Wine in the USA
For starters, all vineyards in the USA have to fill out a specific form in order to be approved for the style of label they hope to use. Here’s some advice about getting your label approved from Bridget Keegan of Old Oaks Vineyard in Florida:
“Folks will need to learn how to fill out the form TTB F 5100.31, they can go online & get an account (then upload your label) or mail the label – two copies (label and form required). This form is for label approval & the person will need to have a federal permit (winery or seller). TTB does take questions by phone or email & they are helpful. Some of the TTB regs are confusing but if a person gets a label rejected you can apply again and correct what the TTB does not like….The big deal is asking the questions, organize what you are doing and keep trying.” – Bottle Your Brand
There you have it, step one in the label making process: Submit the form TTB F 5100.31 to the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Before submitting the form, it is imperative that you apply for COLA (Certification/Exemption of Label/Bottle Approval. This will ensure that you are including everything that is legally required on your label.
The requirements of wine labels are somewhat two-fold. What you see on the front of the label, or the legally binding information, will help you learn more about where the wine came from and when it was first fermented. However, there are aspects of the wine label that carry more subtleties, for example, the image. The image is the single most important tool to communicate to your customer what the flavor profile of the bottle is.
Misrepresentation of a Wine Style by Labels
All too often, the image becomes a representation of the vineyard, rather than a representation of the bottle. This throws off consumers purchasing the bottle because they see an image of a fruity vineyard and assume the bottle will have a sweeter, fruitier flavor profile. They take one swig and realize that the wine is quite dry and sour.
A misrepresentation of flavor begins.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the wine aisle? Consider watching this video of sommelier, Cedric Nicaise, as he teaches the wine novice how to play at being an expert at reading wine labels.
What Wine Labels Tell Us & What They Don’t
Now to the main point: What do wine labels say? And what should wine labels say?
What Wine Labels Do Say:
- Brand Label
- Surgeon General’s Warning
- Class/Type/Other Designation
- Percentage by Volume of all Foreign Wine
- Name & Address
- Net Content
- Alcohol Content
- Declaration of Cochineal Extract or Carmine
- Declaration of Sulfites
- Certificate of Label Approval
- Any Wine Bottled On or After July 9, 1987
- Any Wine Removed On or After Jan. 9, 1988
What Wine Labels Should Say:
- Flavor Profile: I love sweet wines. I want my wine to nearly taste like juice. So when I return from the store with a new bottle of wine, the last thing I want is to discover that I actually hate it. Flavor profiles would add some extra content to a wine label that brings the buyer closer to the bottle they chose.
- Nutrition Facts: Today’s day is all about health and wellness. People have become even more conscious about what they eat and how it will affect their bodies. Nutrition facts would allow consumers to see exactly what they are getting. Diabetic and gluten-intolerant folks will no longer have to worry about the sugar and grain contents of the bottle their friend brought for dinner.
- Alcohol Content by Serving: Unlike beer which is typically served in its own can or bottle, wine comes in a multi-serving container making it difficult to calculate the amount of alcohol you drink in a single glass. By making the serving size of alcohol content very clear, wine enthusiasts won’t have to guess at their intoxication levels. Wine do typically vary in alcohol content significantly, easily ranging from 12% to 15% abv.
John Lawler, co-founder of Label Analytics has an interesting perspective on the power of wine labels:
“The wine label really only has about 1.5 seconds to make an impact. At the point of purchase the only real info the consumer has is the label, and within that 1.5 seconds we draw so many conclusions. Wine is such an image product so the label is a big part of the impression.” – Forbes
Regardless of what you know or don’t know about wine, labels make or break any product.
Be sure that as the consumer you are choosing a wine that encapsulates all of your favorite elements of an alcoholic beverage, color, taste, smell, elegance. As a vineyard, it is important to consider the various styles and flavors your customers enjoy.
Allow them to have the transparent experience you set out for the day you planted the grape seeds in the tilled soil, the experience of satisfaction.
This guest post was written by Kelly Sheperd, exclusively for Social Vignerons.
About the Author: Kelly Shepherd
Kelly is a writer from Boise Idaho. She enjoys writing about the outdoors and her dog, Cassius. In her spare time, she writes captivating fiction and confusing poetry. Follow her @kellyshep14 on Twitter!