All about Labels: Drink Them With Your Eyes

Drink Wine, Not Labels – Dr. Maynard Amerine

Despite admonishments about books and covers, for most of us, looks do indeed count. Which is why odds are that you’ve chosen the wine you’re drinking tonight based on its label. In fact, according to a recent survey, there’s an 82% chance that you picked that bottle based on its label.

And (our quote above notwithstanding) not only might there actually be merit behind your choice, as author and artist David Lance Goines has noted, wine bottles are one of the few items allowed a place on the table in its original package. For the most part it’s true that whether at a restaurant or at home the butter will be placed in a dish, the bread, in a basket and salt and pepper in their shakers. Unless, you’re a hard-and-fast decanter, only the wine sits on the table in its original packaging.

So even though Maynard Amerine, our intrepid collector of these more than 5,000 wine labels, warned against relying solely on the label as a means of choosing a wine, he considered them important enough to preserve.

We, here at UC Davis, are so thankful for that foresight. Not only are many of the labels beautiful works of artistry in their own right, but they also shed light on changing tastes of the drinking public through both the types of wines produced and the different advertising methods employed by their manufactures. Much of what appears on a wine label is also subject to changes in the legal requirements for manufacturers. As you transcribe, you’ll notice that some labels seem quite terse in their use of language while others are crammed with images and text. No matter the style, they are guaranteed to transport you to another time and place. So what are you waiting for? Help us, ‘Label This’.