Wine label design: a snapshot in time

May 13, 2019 | Uncategorized

Wine label design: a snapshot in time

The ritual of wine is something known by all.

It is believed that wine was first introduced in Greece around 400 BC.

In fact, there are artifacts that point to the existence of wine as part of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations.

At this time, wine was considered a gift from the gods, which led many to worship Dionysus, the God of wine.

Pots of wine were even discovered the tomb of the King Tutankhamun, along with some labels.

Wine labels, relics of art history

The oldest known wine label was handwritten by the French Benedictine monk, Pierre Perignon. This label was made of parchment and tied to the neck of a bottle with a piece of string. In the 1700s, with the introduction of the glass bottle and many new varieties of wine, it was necessary to identify the wines by their origin and quality. As such, the modern wine label was born.

The first method of constructing wine labels involved designing the label on a stone and then passing a paint roller on top to produce the label.

However, the first significant development in the area of wine labels took place in 1798 with Alois Senefelder’s invention of lithography. This made it possible to print labels in large quantities and use them as wine labels. Using this technology, most producers preferred labels in rectangular format that allowed them to put more information on the wine.

From writing to graphics

It was in Italy that wine labels began to take on new characteristics.

An 1820 label preserved in the historical archives of Santa Vittoria d’Alba, dated 1852, contained the description Francesco Cinzano Confettiere e Liquoriere Fornitore della Real Casa. This label had more details than previous ones, representing a new emphasis on the artistic element of the label.

The continued expansion of wine industry, the increase in the variety of wines produced, and the need for distribution made labeling essential.  


The first wine labels printed on paper

The first paper wine labels were made in Germany around the 19th century. These labels were simplistic and generic: printed on white paper with the type of the wine written in a classic serifed font. Later, the name of the wine and the year of the harvest started to be included.

Around the same time in France, Champagne labels began to adopt novel design and dimensions. They were designed with gold, silver, bronze, blue and other colors, made by the great Champagne wineries.

With each passing year, winemakers grew increasingly proud of their wines and began to convey that pride in the label. The label began to include the accolades and honorable mentions received for their wines.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Italian wine labels began to convey the details of everyday life. Thus, coats of arms and landscapes began to appear on the labels. For wines that were produced independently, the labels had portraits or family medals.


The modern wine label: a contemporary approach to a historical art

In 1950, certain requirements were imposed by governmental entities on wine labels.

This resulted in the labels similar to those we know today, where all the information about the wine and its components are present.

Today, we can see various types of labels present on wine bottles. These labels, although with similarities between them, are all different, each telling the unique story of the wine it represents.

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