Do you buy wine by the label? Many people do. Labels can make you smile, inhale in anticipation of sipping something special, or make you wonder what the winery was thinking. In the past, fine wine producers put all of their efforts into making great wine, not into creating great labels, believing that if the product was great, it would sell. Yet while talking with a customer a few years ago, he emphatically stated, “If a winery cannot be bothered to put much effort into a label, then I assume they cannot be bothered to put much effort into the wine.” Clearly, labels matter.
With so much wine on the market now, the competition for wineries to reach consumers is fierce. Today labels have to serve as a primary means to sell wine, and wineries invest tremendous resources to create enticing labels. Above all, the label must convey a reason for a consumer to buy that bottle. It needs to offer the wine buyer an assurance of quality, and some idea of the product and producer. For example, the names (i.e. labels) that command the highest prices in restaurants, fine wine merchants or wine auctions are not only those with First Growth and Grand Cru pedigrees, but those that have built up a long standing record for exceptional quality and value, such as Shafer. Other labels, such as the Chateau Mouton Lafite have beautiful artwork to complement the beautiful wine contained therein.
But like not judging books by their covers, wine should not be judged by labels either. There are many fine wines and many cheap wines that have relatively plain labels with simple, and sometimes all too similar, fonts. It is very common for low end producers to mimic the style of fine wine producers in order for an inexpensive wine to look expensive.
Trying a variety of wines and developing a sense of likes and dislikes will do far more to enhance one’s wine enjoyment than buying by the label. Experiment and learn to trust your palate!