The wine lottery: why wine labels are confusing and how to tilt the odds

Confused by wine labels? Here's why...

Who hasn't played the wine lottery? You want a bottle of wine and there are shelves of the stuff in front of you. Which one will you choose? How often have you bought a wine because the label is appealing? Or the name interesting?

We have played the wine lottery quite a lot over the years and one of the reasons we started Love a Taste was our frustration that so many wine labels are more exciting than the wine itself, even with expensive wines, hence our idea of tasting it in small quantities first of all in order to then decide which bottle to buy.

Much regulation and red tape later (now we are in the wine trade ourselves!) we now understand why buying the name and/or label is doomed to result in a random quality experience for most wine drinkers, no matter how much they spend.

Simply put, the FRONT of the wine bottle is heavily EU regulated and contains lots of information, e.g. provenance, alcohol strength (ABV), who bottled it, that the bottle contents are wine, allergens etc. etc. etc.  so interesting perhaps for wine enthusiasts, less so for those who just want a nice bottle of wine.

However the BACK of the bottle is unregulated, so anything goes…
What about making it interesting by putting a pretty design on the back of the bottle and giving the wine a funky name? Genius.

You’ve guessed it… all those wine bottles one sees on shop shelves are back-to-front, showing their interesting eye-catching designs and funky names. A triumph of marketing but something that says very little about the wine itself.

So of course we hapless consumers choose a pretty label, the one with an appealing name or a recognisable grape. Short of turning all the bottles on the shelf around, there’s no other way to discover what’s in the bottle, as all the real information is on the other side, hidden from view. No wonder the retail wine buying experience is so random! 

Our suggestion is try to understand your taste buds and buy from a trusted source that has tasted the wine, whether it is a well respected wine merchant who knows your tastes, or through the guidance provided by our Masters of Wine, Andy and Johnny. Buying pretty labels off shop shelves is destined to remain a random experience forever... Click on any of the wine bottle pictures in our 'shop wines' section and you will find a tasting wheel scored by the Master of Wine who selected it. The idea being that if you like a wine, you will probably like other wines on our website with similar wheels, so tilting the odds in favour of your taste buds... 

Leave a comment