Are We Overly Influenced by Wine Labels?

Looking for a new varietal or bottle of wine to drink when you’re just starting to explore the world of wine can lead to a bit of exasperation. The process usually involves starting with what you know, followed by a comparison of prices and discounts, and then label gawking until you find something… and then you’re still not sure if it will be good!

Wine labels play an important role in our decision making process, even if we don’t realize why. Let’s take a look at how wine labels influence our choices and affiliation with brands, along with some tips on how to look past the design on the bottle for pertinent information.

Columbia Crest’s “Grand Estates” rebrand before and after. Which one looks more tasty?

Wine Labels Are Paramount to Developing a Brand

Case Study: Columbia Crest

Wine brands and luxury wines take labels very seriously. For example, the Columbia Crest Grand Estates brand by Ste Michelle Estates went from a “traditional” look to “modern classic” design and saw growth go from 2% to 7.5% annually with the new label design. This might not seem like much, but when you’re talking about a wine with an annual production of 3.6 million bottles (300,000 cases), the percentages are tremendous!


Two wines with label colors that have become synonymous with an entire style of wine: Lamarca Prosecco = light blue and Veuve Clicquot (“voove kleek-oh”) Champagne = orange.

Labels Can Becomes Synonymous With a Style of Wine

Just like asking for a Kleenex instead of tissue, some wine labels have become synonymous with entire wine regions or styles of wine. The styles most affected by this are sparkling wines. Two brands (Lamarca and Veuve Clicquot) have developed paramount recognition in terms of their brand familiarity. The subtle messaging of the label coloring and design influences buying decisions based on what people expect a bottle of that style of wine to look like. In the case of Champagne, you might prefer a yellow or orange label without even realizing it, or for Prosecco, you might want a blue label.

What This Means For Wine Buyers

For most of us, labels are subliminal: we don’t even realize the effect that they have on our buying decisions. Of course, even if you are aware of what’s going on, it’s hard to move past the picking-a-wine-by-the-label strategy. There is one thing, though, that you can start paying attention to now that will get you past branding: wine provenance.


Wine Provenance

If you look past the design, there is a small amount of useful information available on the label that indicates a wine’s basic provenance. If you know nothing else about the wine, the provenance is the first thing to investigate for more information about the wine’s quality.


Fundamentally, wine is an agricultural product that is grown in a specific place. In today’s wine market, most bulk wines are sourced from a variety of places and have more generalized regional information, whereas wines created from a specific place will have a specific location (or even vineyard) indicated on the label. Looking for wines sourced from a more specific location is a good way to improve your shot of getting a higher quality wine.

TIP: In the US, label terms like “Reserve” and “Special” have no official meaning. Find out more.

Prosecco Wine Types Quality Pyramid

Classification Level

In places like France, Italy, and Spain, wine regions have classifications associated with the wines, which require a certain minimum quality. As you can imagine, each country and each region has their own tier of classification. For example, Prosecco has several tiers of quality classification in which Prosecco DOC is the most basic and Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG is a step above in terms of quality classification. Paying attention to these classification levels on the bottle can help you delve into better wines from the same region.

Read more about the major classification rules for the US, France, Italy, and Spain.

Drink Better Wine

After this reading this I hope you are encouraged to pay more attention to wine provenance on your favorite bottles, and find great-tasting wines regardless of good marketing!

Special thanks to Ste Michelle Wine Estates who provided us with detailed information about their Grand Estates rebranding project.

Wine Folly is your independent source for wine education and does receive any funds to feature wines.

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Time To Play Some Wine Games

For those of us who enjoy a little fun and folly, here are several intriguing games all centered around the topic of wine.

INFO: Product links go to Amazon or where we found the product available for sale.

Wine Wars Trivia Game


Wine Wars: Wine Wars covers the gamut, with categories including, “Vine to Vino” (viticulture and vinification), the “Wine Cellar” (buying, storing and tasting), and Cork Culture (wineries, business and art). Questions like, “Which

Who’s it For? Wine trivia games have questions of a moderate to high degree of difficulty, but should be doable if you’re keeping up with your Wine Folly blogs. They often level the playing field by including a luck/strategy component or team play if you just happen to be gaming with a Master Sommelier in your midst.


Wine-O Bingo Wine Game

Classic Games

It seems like every classic game has a wine-themed version. The only one we couldn’t find was wine Twister. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a good or bad thing.

Wine-O Of course someone has created a Bingo for oenophiles, and it’s aptly named. Wine-O features grape varietals in place of numbers and wine corks to mark your wooden scorecard. As an alternative, Wine-Opoloy plays on the most classic of all board games, Monopoly, swapping properties and railroads for grapes and wine regions.

Who’s it For? You and your friends. And if you’re playing wine Bingo, don’t forget your grandma too.



Murder Mystery

A Taste for Wine and Murder A wine-based murder mystery game where the premise is described as “A body was discovered at a California vineyard, and you must solve the murder before the killer strikes again.” Tantalizing. Calling itself “a dinner party in a box,” the kit includes character booklets and crime scene clues, along with party invitations and a party planning booklet with things like menu and costume suggestions.

Who’s it For? For those of us who like to go all-out for dinner parties. On the other hand, if you want to solve a wine-themed murder without the dinner party fuss, grab Cabernet and Foul Play instead. In this game, “a mystery is fermenting” when a rival winemaker goes missing. The only hope to find him resides with clues found in the accompanying 1000-piece puzzle.




Puzzles might just be one of the best wine-sipping activities ever. We found so many puzzles of wine-related scenes that we may never have to look at a pile of corks ever again!

3D Wine Puzzles If working in two dimensions (relatively speaking) bores you, grab a 3D version. You can find wooden puzzles in the shape of a wine bottle or glass that double as decorative pieces once you’ve completed the challenge.

Who’s it For? You’re either a puzzle person, or you’re not. With a wide range of difficulty levels, it’s easy to find one that fits your needs. As a bonus, if you happen to spill your glass all over the table, with the right 2D scene, it might just blend in.



Brain Teasers

These contraptions wrap securely around a real bottle of wine (that you supply), preventing its access unless you break a code. They usually require creativity, thought, patience and finesse to remove.

Vino Vault Wine Cryptex and Don’t Break The Bottle Wine Caddy Vino Vault Wine Cryptex involves letter combinations that you set, not unlike a suitcase lock. If you’re ready to get a bit wilder, wrap your bottle in a more complex metal (or wooden) multi-step, mind bending apparatus, like Don’t Break the Bottle, instead.

Who’s it For? If you like delayed gratification, want to up the stakes on your quest for puzzle domination, or simply make your friends work a little harder for their hostess gift, you’ll love bottle vaults. Personally, the phrase “don’t break the bottle” is just the kind of foreshadowing that I like to avoid.


Grand Cru Board Game Geek

Strategy Board Games

If you are good at strategy-based games, you’re already smarter than us. These games take you right into vineyards and wineries, tasking you to buy grapes, invest in regions, pray for good weather, price distributions, trade wines and even pay off loans. We found an awesome forum fueled by obsessed gamers that’s worth perusing for advice on strategy-based wine games.

Grand Cru Grand Cru challenges you to manage the economic process of making wine. You must first buy the right grapes for the best wines for your own vineyard. Next you are tasked with navigating all aspects from harvest to vinification to the selling of the final product to pay off your business loans, all the while competing with your opponents who must do the same. The player who is left with the most money after their wine is sold and loans paid off is the winner.

Who’s it For? The hardcore gamer, or “strategery” lover. If you played Risk day and night as a kid, and are ready to swap wine for your go-to childhood beverage, you’ll love Grand Cru and other such strategy games.



Blind Tasting Party Games

A bounty of blind tasting games exist. Unfortunately most are filled with extraneous items like invites, bottle cover bags and cheesy CD music. The most interesting game we found in our research also happened to be the least serious.

Read Between the Wines! Read Between the Wines! is not necessarily blind tasting, but will help you connect your senses of smell and taste to descriptive vocabulary, albeit in comical ways. The idea is to creatively describe the various wines you’re sampling according to one of 54 themes such as, “Compare This Wine to a Celebrity [or friend],” To which you might respond, “This rose is pink, fruity, high in alcohol, pleasantly dry and faintly bitter, like Madeline after a day of too much fun in the sun.”

Who’s it For? Anyone who wants to challenge their senses and explore new varietals or regions would benefit from (blind) tasting games. For a do it yourself version, grab some brown lunch bags and a Wine Folly tasting mat kit, complete with guided tasting placemats and a handy wine aroma wheel.

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Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

The Most Ridiculous/Awesome Corkscrews We’ve Ever Seen

The only thing unaccessible about wine is not having a corkscrew.

Here are some of the most impressive/ridiculous corkscrews we’ve ever seen.


Anna G. and Alessandro M. are the names of the man and woman corkscrews designed by Alessandro Mendini circa 1994. Mendini was part of a group of Northern Italian designers in the 1980s who integrated form into function for everyday devices.

Woman Corkscrew ~$60
Man Corkscrew ~$44


Hahn kitchenware in the UK first came out with their corkscrews in 2006 and went on to develop one of the most pragmatic expandable wine rack designs in the business. Sadly, when we last visited the site, it appeared as though they are out of stock on many of their designs. We hope they relaunch the Fish and the Shark!

Hahn Fish Corkscrew ~$50


The original design was created by Italian designer, Alessandro Mendini, who was part of a group of designers that went against functionalism and created pleasure objects inspired by popular culture in the 1980s and 1990s. The parrot design finally came out in 2003 and is especially unique because while it looks hilarious, the inclusion of a double-hinged lever makes it easy to operate.

Parrot Corkscrew ~$55


Alan Wisniewski is the designer of this awesome T-style hammerhead shark corkscrew. Even though the worm of the corkscrew doesn’t look especially easy to use, it’s a stunning piece of design.

Shark Corkscrew ~$24

Gigolo Man Corkscrew

This is terrible. Wait. It’s awesome. Wait…

Gigolo Corkscrew ~$12


While the “Ah-So” wasn’t the first pronged cork extractor, it’s been one of the longest made openers in this style. The name “Ah-So” has been theorized to mean “Ah, so that’s how it works!” And, it does particularly well on older corks.

Monopol “Ah-So” Corkscrew ~$20


Before today, I thought the most expensive corkscrew was the Code 38. Not true. The Jester is part of a kitchenware set made in Piemonte, Italy and there are only 999 in existence.

Jester Corkscrew $1500


The original Zig-Zag corkscrew is under French Patent No. 503957 granted to Marie Jules Leon Bart on March 29, 1920. The design is aggressive, industrial, and somewhat frustrating-yet-addictive to use.

Zig-Zag Corkscrew ~$50–$100 on ebay

Want to see more?

Here’s a link to someone who has obsessively cataloged older corkscrew patents. Or you can check out the full pinterest board:

See Board


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Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment