Can a good label make your wine taste better? Not in the sense that it alters the chemistry involved in your senses of taste and smell, but your enjoyment of wine is more than chemistry. A California Institute of Technology experiment showed that expectations and psychology have a big impact on how much people enjoy a particular wine: test subjects liked wine better when told it was more expensive. This means we home winemakers need to present and serve our wines with pride if we are to get the most enjoyment out of them.
A good label on a clean bottle, without scuff marks of the previous label on it, is part of that presentation. It should be attractive and informative. An informative label answers questions about it. You don’t have a lot of room on the label so make sure you cover the basics, like “what am I drinking?” and “is it sweet or dry?” If you’re serving to other winemakers, then measurements like specific gravity (SG), titratable acidity (TA), and pH might be important. Attractive labels make people feel good about the wine and want to try it (and if the CIT results can be applied here, make it “taste better”).
The Image: Tell a story
My labels are usually text on artwork. I try to choose artwork that reflects the wine in some way. This relationship between the label and the wine can make a nice story to tell your guests as you serve the wine. That can mean showing the base fruit of the wine on the label – one of my apple wine labels featured a woman eating an apple. It can mean color and mood coming together the way a fun pinup of a woman blushing became the artwork for my “Raspberry Blush” wine. It almost certainly means different things to different people. To me, wine and mead are feminine so most of my labels are too – though I did use a self portrait on my first wine from grapes and the Dharma Initiative logo on a wine I bottled just as a new season of Lost was starting.
The Text: Explain and get them interested
Once I have the artwork, I choose the text style and color to match. Placement is just as important. You don’t want to trample over a beautiful sunset or a pretty smile with boldfaced text. The top and bottom are usually good places, and you can often say a lot on one side or the other without ruining or upstaging the artwork. What do you say? That depends on who you’re serving to. For other winemakers, you might include the basic measurements, the yeast, and other details about how you made it. If you mainly serve mead or unusual wine to friends who are unfamiliar with it, then a short explanation can go a long way. You might say something like, “apple juice and sugar can ferment into a terrific white wine!” or “men have been fermenting honey and water to make mead for centuries.” Remember, you haven’t got a lot of room so keep it short, tell them what they’re drinking, and pique their interest.
If you already make labels for your wine, I’d love to hear about them. If not, give it a try. You might find it’s just the finishing touch to set your wines apart.
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