What’s In a Label?


A great joy to catch up with South West Wine Writer and Educator, Stephen Barrett. He’s a busy man  - have a look at his tastings and really fun events he runs on his website.

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His knowledge, contacts and reputation in the region are well known. He is currently offering customised Wine Tastings – themed, full of insights and some real common sense. Stephen also offers a voucher you can buy - a great gift for somebody you know who will love the idea of a tasting.

We got to discussing wine labels and how this is all evolving. Here’s a favourite of mine:


(I am convinced it USED to be “The Arrogant Frog” – and political correctness intervened! Any ideas to info@vinelives.com ) A lovely rich and round white Viognier variety from the South of France and available at Sainsbury’s at around £7. (Often on offer too!)

Here’s an article from Stephen, reflecting on trends in the “cover” of a wine bottle :

Of late I have been tasting many wines from all over the world. As I write, I am off to another tasting in London with a probability of around 120 wines to taste. This prompted me to think outside the box and look at current trends in how wines are actually presented on the shelves. Tradition is, and always will be, with us, so wine labelling would always follow that. The classic heraldic wine labels of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Germany and Spain are something we are familiar with, especially with the finer wines they proclaim. It is probably inconceivable that the great wines of the regions will ever change, as they set the standard of wine labelling and presentation many years ago. But with the wine market changing at a rate of knots, the newer, brighter labels are now out there vying for your attention. So the obvious “out there” labels have become the new kids on the block, just like their contemporaries of previous centuries.

The first real change in wine labels in the 1970’s came from George Duboeuf - the great wine impresario from Beaujolais. Overnight he created the “flower” label and plonked it on all of his young Beaujolais. It was an instant success, with firstly the restaurant trade and latterly the high street chains. Placed in the centre of the aisle they were unmissable to the eye and so a quick swipe off the shelves saw these wines into the trolley before you could whip the cork out of the bottle!


He then applied it as a screen print to his eponymous Beaujolais Nouveau the young wine of the vintage released each third Thursday in November, for instant satisfaction! Guess what? It is still with us as a labelling tradition.

As I see it, these eye-catching colourful labels have another role – that of enticing the potential customer to experiment and taste something different! Take the two current high street favourites: Malbec for the reds,  and Pinot Grigio for the whites. The more colourful the label, the better chance Malbec and Pinot Grigio have to end up on your kitchen table. It also helps that they are easily pronounced!

Copyright Stephen Barrett


Recently, a couple of these stylishly labelled wines have landed on my tasting table, showing a pair of funky Tango dancers in true Argentinian pose. The words Malbec and Pinot Grigio are pasted on the front of the label, without too much intrusion on the dancers, so it all harmoniously fit the package. If you care to read the back label, the current and legal stuff is all there. But who reads back labels when the front is all you need? Next the price. If it's in your price bracket it pops into your trolley!

The Pinot Grigio is a fresh pear scented wine with a delicate citrus finish. A good casual light wine that is a fave with many. Malbec can come in many different guises but this one follows the light touch similar to the Pinot Grigio. Easy sipping with a light cherry scent and a brambly mid-palate note.  Both very sound wines and at £7 a bottle from Sainsbury's under the Comuna labeI. I am sure they will fit the bill.

Stephen Barrett