Should I believe what’s written on a wine’s back label?

By / Wine + Drinks / June 20th, 2017 / 13

There’s no reason to doubt the blurb on the back of the bottle, as long as you wrap your palate around the fact that we’re talking about some limited real-estate where a lot has to be said in a few words and marketing is its motivation.
In Canada, space becomes even more of a premium thanks to our rules and regulations about what has to be stamped on each panel before any poetic glory statements can make an appearance. I’m talking all the stuff that you, the consumer, need to have access to so that you don’t buy booze by accident. (Like standing in a liquor store isn’t enough of a hint at what’s on the shelves.)

Size, country of origin, alcohol content, product style, etc. has to be on the label that you and I would consider the front part of the bottle. While the debate rages on which side that is, all the info has to be in both French and English to boot. Once all the legal blah-blah is taken care of, the winery’s marketing team can fill the remaining space with as much flowery prose or deep-dive detail that they feel will sell their juice to the unwashed masses.

Now, some winemakers love to put their two cents worth on their back labels, giving John Irving a run for his money when it comes to story structure and changing up their descriptors every vintage.

On the other hand, the vast majority of producers keep to the same finely manicured spiel no matter how good, bad or indifferent the harvest was. In the end, it comes down to caveat emptor on your part. You’re not going to find any lies on the back of a wine bottle. It’s just that much of what you’ll read is a generic sales pitch formulated in a boardroom rather than the vineyard.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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