A taxonomy of wine labels: how to pick a wine you’ll like

Lets face it. Very few people know enough about wine to be able to pick out a new drop based on the descriptors and region of providence. Most of us have some idea about the difference between red and white wines and vague notions of what food goes with what drop. But last time I tried to count there were about 100 chardonnay varieties in the fridge at my local wine distributor, and oodles more on the shelf. What’s a guy to do. For me. The choice is easy. I go with the label with the best typography. If they know their fonts (or have paid a designer who does) then I suspect they’ll have put some effort into their wine.

You too can judge a bottle by its label, thanks to this taxonomy/pie graph.

Here’s a couple of sample descriptors of the type of wine matched to the type of label…

Diluted French

Take the French label and remove a lot of the words. Voilà! These give the feeling of a French label — tradition, upper class — but without all the confusing detail. You usually get the grape name, the region, and they usually try to shoehorn the word “chateau” in there somewhere. Also, there is often a pen and ink drawing of a house that we are meant to believe is the aforementioned chateau.

What to Expect: The winemaker often isn’t actually French, but is instead an American making wine in the French style. That means it will taste sort of like dirt and fruit. You know how people say, “I don’t know, tastes like red wine to me”? This is what they are talking about.

Graphic Design Subclass: Letterpress

Have you seen those greeting cards where there is some nice serif font that says something like “Thank You” and then there is an equally nice image of a dandelion on it? And also a lot of white space, and it sort of looks like a wedding invitation? That’s what these wine bottles look like.
What to Expect: Smooth wines usually, not super-tannic (i.e, cotton-mouthy), not super-fruity or earthy. Defined more by what they are not. Which is not a bad thing, I don’t think.

I’m a letterpress type of guy. How about you?