Beyond the Label – How to Choose Wine: The Basics

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Good labels evoke a feeling: warmth, class, style.

There a few steps involved in choosing the right wine for an event, a dinner party, or (gulp!) a first date. Grape and price point are obvious starting points, and from there flavour and pairings will have their say. But then how do you make that final choice? A lot of times, it’s going to be the label. We’ve been told time and time again not to judge a book by it’s cover, but nowadays, the authors know that’s what we’re doing, and they’ve adjusted accordingly.

Start with your grape. If you know which grapes you’ve liked in the past, stick with those. Better the devil you know…

Pay attention to region, as well. Warmer climates will give you a fruitier, less acidic wine, while cooler regions will give you a sharper flavour.

Watch also for the alcohol content. Not only does this tell you how much you can bear to drink on a Tuesday night, a wine with a higher alcohol content tends to be richer, deeper, and more luscious, while a lower alcohol content can mean a fruitier taste, but still a light feel.

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Simple and clean is often best.

Keep an eye out for a winemaker you’re familiar with who has recently changed their branding or packaging. They may be trying to appeal to a newer customer base, and you should probably question why. If a wine is good and selling good, it won’t need a new label design.

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Some wineries take their brand to the next level!

While a label doesn’t always indicate the quality of the wine in the bottle, it will often reflect it’s style. Classic French wines often have a traditional template. Tried and true. California wines will often have artistic labels.  More modern wines will have labels that speak to their audience – like Pat Underwood’s “Little Reddie” wine, whose label is based off the cover of Sonic Youth’s “Goo” album.

So, while choosing based on the label shouldn’t be the first line on your list, feel comfortable with some that pleases your eye once you’ve checked the other boxes.