Wine-buyers lured by labels


Ever wondered what drives the choice you make when you're shopping for wine, apart perhaps than the need for a drink?

Well, finally someone has done the wondering for us.

Professor Larry Lockshin , head of the wine marketing school at the University of South Australia says, after extensive research into the buying habits of Australians, who are pretty much the same as us, that it's mainly about recognition.

Which is all about the label.

You recognise it because the chances are, in up to 80 per cent of all cases, it's a wine you have probably bought before, even if you haven't paid much attention, or any at all; in up to 50 per cent of all cases it's because you recognise other stuff on the label, such as the grape variety, region, brand and vintage.

Apparently we are either visual or verbal when it comes to labels. Thirty per cent to 40 per cent of us focus on the design and the colours while a further 10 per cent to 14 per cent will make a purchase based on information of medals won or points scored stickered on a bottle.

However, in a third of all cases the only thing that matters is the price.

As Australian wine writer Tony Love said in a column on the same subject: "A label designer might as well just put in big letters the price and be done with it."

How important, then, is the back label? The one on the other side of the bottle that gives you winemaker's often flowery description of the wine; the family's tragic or proud potted history; and a couple of other things that you really ought to know.

Not particularly important at all, not in the buying process anyway, according Prof Lokshin, who says: "Back labels are like cereal boxes. People turn the bottle around when or after they've served."

But many do eventually read them and they like nothing better than a yarn about the family's past; or how the wine got the name on the label.

Both ring a bell with me, having this week sampled a couple of wines that fit both prescriptions.

One is from a series of wines produced by Brent Marris at Marisco, in Marlborough, and is called The King's Bastard, which makes the back label required reading.

The champion chardonnay from the New World Wine Awards is named for William de Marisco, said to be one of King Henry I's 35 illegitimate children and a Marris family forebear.

The other is a wine from Brown Brothers' 18 Eighty Nine range, which celebrates the family's 125 years of winemaking in Victoria.

On each of the rather elegant labels on these Brown Brothers' reds is a chair of a different style and era and an autumnal switch of vine from the variety in the bottle.

Read the back label and it all becomes clear. The chairs represent the four generations of Browns who have shared the family table and enjoyed the product of their labours over all those many years.

What I haven't seen or tasted yet, though, are a couple of other Australian wines with labels that change when the contents reach the correct temperature for drinking.

In the case of El Desperado, a rose from the Adelaide Hills, the scary skull on the label becomes a beautiful crimson rose when it's cooled to 15 degrees Celsius. Likewise, the vine on the label of the sauvignon blanc turns from brown to a vibrant green when it's ready to drink.

Certainly suits the non-readers.

Wines of the week:

Marisco 2013 The King's Bastard Chardonnay, $23
This latest edition of Brent Marris' Marlborough chardonnay is a luscious citrus-driven wine with undertones of hazelnuts and butterscotch. Fresh and juicy. Very drinkable.

Brown Brothers 2013 18 Eighty Nine Shiraz, $19.99
The family's first winery was a hay barn and this was the red that first competed with the hay for space. Just as the label says: "Berry fruit and gentle pepper spice."

The Southland Times