If you are new to the world of wine labels, you may be surprised to realize that more and more people love to receive wine labels as a Christmas gift basket.
To some people, a wine label may be just a bit of paper stuck on a wine bottle, containing bits of information. The idea of giving wine labels as Christmas gifts would make no sense at all to these people. But for others, a wine label is much more than that.
For lovers of wine labels, the appeal mainly lies in two different things. One is the unique and intriguing designs of the labels themselves. The other is the reminder they bring of the worldwide nature of the wine industry.
Nowadays, there are very few countries in the world that don't produce any wine. But of course there are some countries that have been well known for their wines for centuries - mainly European countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. More recently they have been joined by others - South Africa, USA (particularly California), Australia and Chile, for example.
All these countries have variations in their wine labels. Looking at the label and seeing where the wine comes from greatly adds to the excitement of opening a bottle of wine. What's more, seeing where the Christmas wine is from often provides more idea about how the wine will taste than does the actual information on the label.
Wherever in the world the wine comes from, there are four basic pieces of information that must be on the label:
- Appellation - the place where the grapes are grown.
- Varietal - the main type of grape used.
- Generic - the style of wine.
- Proprietary - the owner and creator of the wine or brand.
However, the labels from each country will differ in the way they arrange these bits of information. For example:
- California - the regional and varietal name will be at the top.
- Australia. If you see a "Bin number" on the label this probably means it's Australian. It refers to the batches from specific vineyards.
- South Africa - the wine labels are simpler. They often just provide the estate name, the vintage, the grape variety and the producer.
- German, Spanish and Italian wine labels have the name of the estate proprietor at the very top. Then in the next line there is the vintage year, then the name of the vineyard, the grape variety and style. Italian and Spanish wine labels in addition have a quality statement "Reserve".
- Burgundy wine labels are the most complex of all. After the merchant name and the appellation come the rating of the vineyards as "grand cru", "premier cru" and basic appellation. The label will then have the phrase mis en bouteille (="bottled") followed by the information about whether the wine was bottled on the estate itself or elsewehere.
When you hold a wine bottle in your hand, you're holding a little bit of that country - its fruit, its sunshine, its people. And it's the label that gives the first indication of what country it is - and you get a little bit of the same excitement and romance as if you were traveling there!
So this is the reason for the infinite variety of wine labels - all those different countries, and so many vineyards and winemakers, each with its special design. You can never get bored with wine labels - and wine labels as Christmas gifts bring a little bit of that sunshine and excitement into a dark winter's day!