A Brief History of Wine Labels

Every winemaker understands the importance of a great wine label, but you may be surprised about their origin. Learn more about the history of wine labels.

 

A brief history of wine labels

Every winemaker understands the importance of a great wine label. Certainly, crafting an exquisite tipple is key to success – but the label is what helps to seal the deal. It’s what catches the attention of consumers and helps wines and spirits brands stand out from the crowd. 

But what is the history of the humble wine label? You might be surprised to learn that its origins date back thousands of years.

Wine fit for a king

The history of wine can be traced back to the time of the ancient Greeks, around 4,000 BC. Though the earliest example of wine labels similar to those we’d recognise today was discovered in 1922 in the tomb of Egyptian King Tuttunkhamun (who died in 1325 BC).

The use of papyrus (a material similar to paper) allowed Egyptians to record information; the wine jars buried with King Tuttunkhamun had labels etched with information such as grape type, vintage, region and year.

From etched to hand-written labels

It was several millennia later, in 17th-century France, that the first hand-written labels were created and tied to the neck of wine bottles using string. 

The labels were produced by monk and cellar master at the Benedictine abbey in Hatvillers, Don Pierre Pérignon. This a name you’re sure to recognise, with it being a popular brand of vintage champagne.

The 1700s saw the introduction of glass bottles and wine production grew exponentially. This created the need for easy wine identification – specifically in relation to the quality and region of each bottle. And thus, the modern wine label was born.

History of wine labels

The printing press changes everything

While the first wine bottle labels (as we know them today) were created using a stone and ink roller, the introduction of the printing press changed everything. 

The first paper label is said to have been created in Germany in the 1780s. The lithographic printing process allowed for makers to mass produce small labels containing all of the information required to identify the wine by type, maker and region. 

As the printing process became more advanced, so too did the wine labels. The Champagne houses of France are largely credited with being the first to experiment creatively with labels, incorporating colour and design in ways that would distinguish their products from those of other producers. The labels showcased colours like gold, silver, bronze and blues for the very first time.

In each year that followed, winemakers proud of their product would find new ways to promote their credentials using wine labels – mentioning things like medals and trophies. Italian winemakers of the 19th and 20th centuries were known for labels depicting coats of arms, portraits, landscapes or medals awarded to wine families. 

Fast forward to the 1950s and legislation was introduced requiring winemakers to include certain information on their bottles. This included where it was bottled, who bottled it, the type of grape and where they came from, vintage, alcohol content and volume. This legislation is still in place today. 

Labels for modern times

While wine labels today have many similarities to those of yesteryear, perhaps one of the most noteworthy advancements has been the integration of near field communication (NFC) technology. 

NFC smart labels enable consumers to connect and interact with a brand straight from the bottle, simply by scanning the label with a smartphone or other mobile device. This increased level of engagement can help to deliver more enriching customer experiences and drive brand recognition and loyalty.

Showcase your product with Premier Labels

As a winemaker, there’s no doubt you’ve poured huge amounts of time and effort into creating a wine to be proud of. It’s now time to show it off in the best possible way – and Premier Labels can help you do just that. 

Whatever your style – classic, modern or minimalist – we have the experience and technology to create tailored, innovative labels for your wine bottles.

We create designs using metals, embossing, smart tech, unique swing tags, or any combination of techniques that you'd like!

If you've got any questions, or would like to chat with a specialist member of our team, get in touch today. We're on hand to discuss how high quality labels can make a difference to your unique brand.

Alternatively, give us a call on 01483 423424, or email us at sales@premierlabels.uk.com.

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