Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! What’s in a wine label? If a wine had any other label on the front, would the wine inside the bottle taste any less sweet? Would the quality suffer? It’s true that our perception of the outside of the bottle can greatly affect the experience we have when we taste the wine and the information on the label goes hand in hand with a well-thought marketing approach. After all, the customer is never going to read the information if they aren’t enticed into picking up the bottle in the first place.

There are many ways that wine companies market their wines including advertisements on television, in magazines, on the radio and more commonly now, on the internet. Despite all of these tools at their disposal, one of the most important aspects to wine marketing is the look of the label. This comes down to the size, shape and color of the font, the colors of the label itself, the artwork, the placement of the details and a well-designed scheme that draws the eye while still providing useful information.

The marketing of wine goes back several centuries and one of the best examples of focused, intelligent marketing is the Champagne brand, Veuve Clicquot. Under the direction of Barbe-Nicole (the widow/veuve for which the brand is named), the company’s best wines were shipped to Russia near the end of the Napoleonic wars where they came to the attention of Tsar Alexander. When he exclaimed that he would drink no other brand of Champagne, the word spread throughout the Russian court and thus the world that the brand was of the highest quality. This began a massive upturn in sales and the company flourished.

The color used by Veuve Clicquot is a combination of orange and yellow and this unique color, aka Pantone 1387C is fiercely protected by trademark and copyright protections. The color was officially trademarked in 1877 and the brand has the reputation for pursuing legal action when their trademarks are infringed upon. Many companies used to simply write on the bottles to indicate origin, quality and vintage but once the success story of Veuve Clicquot became mainstream, every major Champagne house started using labels and specific marketing to sell their wines.

Personally, I am usually drawn to understated labels with basic but crucial details like origin, aging time (in bottle and oak), vintage and type of blend used. In my experience, more is often less. Other brands will use quirky characters or colorful creations to grab attention and imagination like Yellow Tail, 19 Crimes, Snoop Dogg, Vintage Ink (which uses a tattoo motif) and Fat Bastard (hilarious names can be intriguing). In the end however, does the excitement received from the outside of the bottle translate into the appropriate experience?

I often don’t trust brands with cutesy animals or flashy packaging because it seems like they are trying to make up for something. If I have to be tricked by the label into trying the wine, what will the quality inside actually be like? Does this logic apply to the two wines this week?

Crudo has a sea-like style on the label with a tangly octopus limb reaching onto the label. As expected, the wine is crisp and clean and will pair perfectly with seafood. Understated, simple and to the point. The Laughing Donkey is cartoonish and loud which grabs my attention but the wine is simple and fruit-driven (not a bad thing). The wine lacks depth and tastes a bit thin (despite its full body). Unfortunately, this wine proves my theory that style without substance can be disappointing and I wouldn’t pay $30 again for the experience. Here are my wine picks of the week!

Smiling Donkey 2018: (DOC Douro, Portugal). Dry to off-dry red, deep ruby color. The bouquet of this red blend is fruity and entices with lively notes of dark chocolate, pomegranates, red grapes, currants, woodsy earth, sweet musk and plums. To the taste, the wine opens with a splash of fruity intensity including flavors of raisins, plums, cherries, currants and vanilla. A hint of pepper starts to come through as the palate transitions from the initial flavors into the finish but the taste of fruit also thins out slightly. Medium-plus tannins are felt on the tip of the tongue and teeth which is countered by the juicy, full body. This round, fruity wine has medium acidity which offers just enough zip while chocolate, raisins and currants linger on the medium-length finish. While I enjoy the simple fruit and chocolate flavor profile of this wine, I expected more complexity and staying power at this price point. The price and thinning out of flavors hurt the score slightly. Good! $30, 14% ABV

Crudo Catarratto Zibibbo 2022: (IGT Terre Siciliane, Italy). Off-dry white, pale lemon/green color. The scent of the wine is fresh and crisp with tomato stalk, vegetable roots, pineapple, papaya, lime pith, volcanic stone/mineral and melon rind. The tangy style of the nose carries onto the palate with mouthwatering notes of pineapple and tropical fruit, lime fruit, honeydew and a lovely note of volcanic mineral tingling in the background. Sweet citrus fills out the flavors which is lifted by medium-plus acidity and a light body. This wine is enjoyable to sip on and the combination of tangy fruit with balanced bitterness (from the mineral) is the perfect compliment to the crisp and clean character. The finish is quick and leaves a touch of acidity and tropical fruit. This is an amazing food wine which will pair well with many types of Asian foods, pan-seared scallops, sushi, spicy meals like chicken vindaloo or the perfect pairing option: freshly grilled octopus (a little tough to find in Saskatchewan). This white technically scored a rating of “Good” but it gets a bump up to “Very Good” since I enjoyed it so much. $20, 12.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!