The Truth About Wine Labels

4 years ago

So today I was reading the label on my wine bottle, which is not something I usually do because, let’s be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference between “oaky” and “elmy” (is that a thing?). I am no wine connoisseur—I mostly choose my wines based on their price and label. Trader Joe’s is great for choosing wine. There are maybe 8,000 different kinds of wine for under $10. And truth be told, I generally stick to the under-$6 vinos anyway. Why spend a bunch of money when I wouldn’t even know the difference?

The other great thing about the wines at Trader Joe's is that lots of them come from snappy little up-start vineyards in California that try to lure you in with their clever names and labels. Why else would I try a wine called “Pancake White?” (my absolute favorite, so far.) And recently I bought a bottle of red wine called Cocobon because its name sounded like cocoa and its label said it had hints of chocolate. Mention chocolate and I’m pretty much in, every time.

Anyway. Today I happened to read the label on my current bottle of white (chosen because it features an old-timey-looking drawing of an elephant) and I read this: “lovely aroma of ripe tropical fruit, fresh lemon and green apple which marry beautifully with rich vanilla oak spice and melon flavors. Drink with grilled chicken with a pineapple mango salsa.”

Errr…come again?

So, I sniffed the wine, really trying hard to smell any kind of fruit. Green apple? Fresh lemon? No. What I smelled was…wine. You know how wine smells? That. That is what I smelled.

Hmmm. Maybe I’m getting a cold, I thought. Maybe my allergies are acting up.

I reread the label and decided to taste it. I like vanilla, though I’m not entirely sure if I like “vanilla oak spice.” But it sounds good. If I found a scented candle or a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in that flavor, I’d buy it. And I like melon well enough. So, I sipped the wine. And what I tasted? Was wine. White wine, definitely, not red. But just wine. And a disappointing lack of what I call vanilla, that’s for sure.

Well, I thought, maybe it’s because I’m drinking it standing over the kitchen sink with a low-cal ice cream sandwich in my other hand. Maybe if I were drinking it with “grilled chicken with a pineapple mango salsa,” maybe THEN I’d taste the vanilla oak stuff. Maybe I should make some grilled chicken with a pineapple mango salsa for dinner tomorrow.

Then I laughed so hard at my little jokey that my husband asked if maybe I shouldn’t lay off the wine a little.

Pineapple mango salsa??? If I want a good pineapple mango salsa, I’ll go where god or nature intended me to go—a RESTAURANT. 

So then I got to thinking about what wine labels should really say. What many of us are ACTUALLY eating and thinking and doing when we drink wine. Here’s what I came up with:

“Pairs beautifully with guilty-pleasure reality tv and a king-size bag of M&Ms.”

“A delightful complement to chicken nuggets with a ketchup/mayonnaise dipping sauce.”

“Enjoy while gorging on an embarrassing number of Girl Scout Cookies while wallowing in your latest round of parental guilt.”

“A fine accompaniment to eating your weight in ice cream and crying over your recently deceased cat.”

“Drink with Triscuits and Facebook.”

Of course, I’m just spitballing here, it’s not like I’ve done any of these things…really, I swear.

So, what’s your favorite wine?

Image Credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

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