A nice wine label can sometimes be appreciated (almost) as much as the actual contents of the bottle. Labels with smart designs showcase creativity, offering depth and entertainment, allowing another layer of conversation to the experience of drinking a fine bottle of wine.
Bringing along a bottle of wine to an event or as a gift is one thing, having a unique label that can act as a conversation starter is something entirely different. So where did the wine label come from? How did it come about?
Origin of wine labels
Wine labels have come a long way since simply being used to store and organise wine, its contemporary use has stretched to become the visual voice of the wine and its existence.
The wine label is a very convenient invention. People are glad to pick up a bottle of wine, and although sometimes may need to decipher it, can read the label to determine its place of origin, contents, and who made the wine.
Without wine labels it would be impossible to determine which wines were worth more value. More than two millennia ago, the Egyptians became aware of this dilemma, so invented the wine label. From 1550 to 1070 BC it’s believed that Egypt dominated the wine trade. Wine made its way to Egypt through trade and the people decided they loved it. So much so that they took the wines with them to the afterlife. King Tutankhamen was buried with over 26 amphorae filled with different wines – and they surrounded tombs with highly sought-after wines that many thought would benefit them in the next world.
From clay imprints to labels
After realising the need to be able to identify the wines, a labelling system was adopted, recording the year the wine was made, where it was made, who made it, and even the style of the wine. This information was imprinted on the clay amphorae as it dried.
Inform and Inspire
A well-designed wine label does both inform and inspire. The ’inspire’ comes first. If you’re looking for something new, or perhaps you’re looking at a range of wine bottles for the first time, the more aesthetically appealing the bottle, the more likely you will drift towards it. Of course, price and other factors will come into consideration, however a label that stands out and catches your attention will make you want to learn more about it. That’s where ‘inform’ comes in. Now that you’ve found an appealing bottle, reading the label will inform your choice. Where is it from? How old is it? Who made it? What’s the alcohol percentage? Perhaps there are even suggested pairings or descriptive wording that gives you a sense of the expected taste.
“A wine label is the key to everything you need to know about wine- if you know how to read it.” (George, 1991)
Reading wine labels is a skill, one which we will go into in more detail in the future. It’s interesting how wine labels offer a taste of the industry’s history, seeing how they have evolved over time, since the imprints made by Egyptians, to the extravagant designs you may see now.
If you’re interested in seeing more about the history of wine labels, take a look at the Museums Victoria online collection of vintage wine labels.
Create your own customised wine labels with Wine Design
If you’re looking for a fresh design that will spark conversation and impress guests, contact us and we can turn your wine label dreams into a reality.
George, R. (1991). The Simon and Schuster pocket wine label decoder. New York: Simon & Schuster.