Wine descriptions – All Greek to us?

Posted on Jun 6, 2011

Why are so many wine bottle back labels written by people who forget that we don’t speak their special kind of code?

“Harvested at 24 Brix with acidity of 6.2 g/l before fermentation at 4 degrees produces a palate of greengage with citrus overtones before a long lingering finish.”


Hardly one to get my mates rushing back shouting “I’ve got it, the 24 Brix with the 4 degree fermentation, thank god!”.  It’s a bit like a car salesman thinking he will persuade us to buy his latest model by giving us the technical manual for the engine… in German!

Wines sold in supermarkets often try to help by adopting a more functional approach. Paragraphs with titles such as SERVE, STYLE, SOURCE and STORE are common, along with various symbols to denote the alcohol, sweet/dry level, and calls to recycle or not to drink when pregnant. It’s often barkingly dull or generalised, but at least it’s trying to provide information that might help us choose one wine over another.


But beware, descriptions of ‘citrus overtones’ or ‘hints of blackberry before a firm crunchy finish and tannic back palate’ still creep in. Or the opposite ‘perfect on its own and with savoury foods” which covers almost every possible time we might drink wine, unless you fancy a glass while brushing your teeth.

Some producers, mostly Australian or Californian, try the humorous or whacky approach – not much about the wine, but a nice little story about the name, the people or the place. It adds a bit of interest and gets our imagination working.

The Millione back label seeks to be informative and inspiring:

‘Celebrate life and enjoy this delicious lightly sparkling rose wine with friends. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Merlot grapes grown in northern Italy, drink it chilled to enjoy at its best.


For every bottle sold £1 goes to build and run primary schools in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Our goal: 1 million bottles, £1 million, lots of schools’

How wine is explained to us is one of the ‘Great Debates’ in the Wine Trade. What do you like to know about?The taste, the values, the people, the place, what it’s made from, when to drink it, how to store it? Or none of these? A bottle of Millione for the most interesting comment.


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