The History of Wine Labels

Posted on

Wine labels have been around for centuries. It is commonly believed that wine was introduced in Greece around 4000 BC and there are artifacts that point to it being a part of Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. Wine was considered to be a gift from the gods by the ancient Greeks, many of whom worshiped Dionysus, the god of wine.

In the tomb of King Tutankhamen (d.1352 BC.) wine jars were discovered that had wine labels with enough details to meet some present day countries' existing wine label laws.

The oldest hand written wine label on record was from French monk Pierre Perignon. This wine label was made of parchment and tied to the neck of a bottle with a piece of string.

In the 1700's, with the introduction of glass bottles and the multiple varieties of wine being produced, there was a need to identify wines for their origin and their quality. This is the best explanation of the birth of the modern wine label.

The first crude method of label construction involved designing the wine label on a stone then passing an ink roller over it to produce the label.

The true development in the field of wine labels took place in 1798. This was the year Czechoslovakian Alois Senefelder invented lithography. Lithography allowed for printing wine labels in mass quantities. With the introduction of lithography most wine producers preferred wine labels in a rectangular shape that allowed room for increased information about the wine.

It was in Italy where wine labels began to take on new characteristics. A label from 1820 preserved in the historical archives of Santa Vittoria d'Alba dated 1852, carried the description "Francesco Cinzano Confettiere e Liquoriere Fornitore della Real Casa." This label had more detail than previous labels.

The growth of the glass bottle industry, the increase in the variety of wines produced, and the need to distribute them eventually necessitated labeling every wine bottle. The first paper wine labels were made in Germany around the 19th century and were fairly generic. They were printed on white paper rectangles in either Gothic or Bodoni font and listed only the kind of wine. Sometimes the vintner would list the name of the wine and the vintage year. Around that same time in France, Champagne labels with gold, silver, bronze, blue and other colors were made by the great Champagne houses.

With each passing year, winemakers gained pride in the quality of their wines and used their wine labels to boast. They added honorable mentions, medals, and trophies to their wine labels.

The Italian wine labels of the 19th and 20th centuries revealed clues of daily life, with labels that displayed coats of arms, landscapes, portraits, or medals from the individual wine families. This continued until 1950 in Italy, when governmental law imposed wine label requirements.

It has been said that wine labels are similar to the chapter titles in a book and tell us everything we need to know about a wine's background. When you design your own wine label at Bottle Your Brand, you can add as much or as little information to your label as you choose.

It's fun to think that you are following in the footsteps of the great winemakers of history!