Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Judging a Wine (Or Winery) by its Label

Judging a Wine (Or Winery) by its Label

Julie Haase

In 2010, the United States became the world’s largest wine market, with over 767 million gallons of wine consumed by Americans.  With wine prices ranging from just a couple dollars a bottle to upwards of tens of thousands of dollars per bottle, wine is an alcoholic beverage enjoyed by people across all classes. When a buyer is trying to decide on a bottle to purchase, the wine’s label will often be the deciding factor between multiple options; many times, a wine’s label is the only resource a consumer has in deciding which wine to buy. Assumptions about the quality of a wine are often made from the information provided on wine labels.  In this paper, I intend to explore what winemakers may be attempting to indicate about themselves, and also, what they signal to consumers through the labels placed on their wine bottles.  Federal and state laws regulate what information must be found on a wine label, but winemakers often add extra information to their bottles; this may include tasting notes, geographical growing conditions, or accolades for the wine, or may take the form of pictures, colors, or designs.  I will discuss other literature written about the jargon of wine-speak, wine labels, and consumer buying habits.  Then, I will attempt to dissect a group of randomly selected labels across all price ranges to see if I can come to any conclusions about the wine in the bottle and the winery itself.

April 15, 2013 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I totally judge a wine by its label. (Well first I judge it by its price, let’s be honest). I refuse to drink any wine with a whimsical animal in the name or on the label, especially if that whimsical animal is numbered in some way. “Twelve Antelopes Vineyards.” “Laughing Bear Wines.” etc. While I’ve avoided them, I suspect they all suck simply because the company seems more intent on selling the idea of wine lifestyle (or bad poetry?) rather than the actual wine. Does that make sense? Anyway, it’d be interesting to read!

    Comment by Brenna | April 15, 2013 | Reply

  2. I would love to read your paper while having a glass of wine! I, like Brenna, also judge a wine by its label (and of course the price and what kind it is…moscato or white zinfandel please!). But I will admit, I am one of those people who are suckers for the cute animals (I like “Winking Owl,” for instance).

    Comment by Kelsey | April 19, 2013 | Reply

  3. I, too, am a sucker for labels, and reward the ones that capture my fancy by buying them– once. Then they have to earn my business. We are definitely talking branding here, and the effort to home in on a segment of the market. There are wine snobs, anti-snobs, techies, and so forth. It might be possible to locate categories used within the industry (I’m thinking along the lines of Everett Rogers’ seminal “Diffusion of Innovations” (1962): “early adopters,” and such.
    Anyhow, the research is an end in itself…

    Comment by Dan | April 19, 2013 | Reply

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