As early as 6,000 years ago, the Sumerians in Mesopotamia used roller seals for labelling wine vessels. These were two to eight centimetre long and two centimetre thick cylinders of stone. The inscription or pictures contained on them could be rolled off on soft clay. This was mainly information about the origin of the wine contained. The Greeks and Romans used to hang small signs with information on the amphorae or carved information directly into the amphorae. Such pendants made of various materials were still used for wine vessels in the Middle Ages. By "rehanging", fraudulent intentions were of course easily possible. Important information about the wine such as the vintage or a producer's mark was also attached to the Korkbrandcork by means of cork firing.
Labels in their present form were not introduced until the beginning of the 19th century with the advent of lithography (stone printing). However, a wide use could only be made when the problem of adhesion on the bottles was solved. One of the earliest examples is considered to be a Schloss Johannisberger vintage 1822, which depicts the castle with the surrounding vineyards.
At this time, the first bottles produced in England in the form of rollers were also in use. Today, the label is the "birth certificate" for a wine with information required by wine law as well as additional optional information. The most important information is on the main label, further information can be on an additional neck and/or back label. Further information such as the producer can also be found on the cork or closure.
According to EU regulation, the product name is the essential part of the product information and the most important purpose is to inform the buyer accurately and truthfully, avoiding misleading information. For individual text parts, certain font sizes and also the size ratio are regulated. If no font size is specified, the general principle from the wine designation law applies. This means that the characters must be easily readable, indelible and sufficiently large. The information must be given in one or more official languages of the Community so that the final consumer can easily understand each of these indications. Some EU countries require producers from abroad to provide certain information in their own national language, which they must take into account when exporting.
For a long time, the general principle within the EU was that everything that was not explicitly allowed was prohibited. Commission Regulation No. 753/2002, which came into force in 2003, meant extensive liberalisation. Thus, this principle was also abolished for still wines, as it had been for sparkling wines for a long time. There are now compulsory (obligatory) and optional (possible) indications, with the optional ones distinguishing between "indications under certain conditions" and "other indications".
The compulsory compulsory information on the label is
The wine must be declared as wine, country wine or quality wine or predicate wine. In this respect, the new wine designations introduced within the EU as of August 2009 apply (see in detail under Quality System). All wines must be labelled in lots. For quality wine / predicate wine, the official test number (Germany) or state test number (Austria) must appear, which alternatively is also valid as lot identification. For Prädikatswein, the respective predicate appears(Kabinett, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Ausbruch, Strohwein, Eiswein etc.).
See the new regulations valid from August 2009 under Quality System.
A single grape variety may be declared if it accounts for at least 85% of the total (see also under varietal purity). A maximum of three grape varieties may be indicated in descending order of proportion. The wine must consist of 100% of the two or three grape varieties indicated. If more than three are indicated, they must not be in the same visual field as the obligatory indications and the font size must not exceed 3 mm. The provisions of the wine grape varieties to be classified per EU state for cultivation, as well as the use of certain varieties for wines with indication of origin (country wine, quality wine) are regulated in EU regulations; see Quality wine grape varieties.
This substance can cause allergies, therefore a quantity of more than 10 mg/l in wine has been subject to mandatory labelling since 25 November 2005. Permissible are the texts "Contains: Sulphur dioxide" or "Contains: Sulphites" (but not permitted is "Contains: SO2"). Overseas this has been mandatory in some countries for some time. By the way, this (very low) limit is exceeded for almost all wines. See permissible limits per wine type under sulphurous acid.
The EU Regulation (No. 1924/2006) on nutrition and health claims made on foods (Health Claims Regulation) came into force on 1 July 2007. For beverages with an alcohol content of more than 1.2% by volume, any health reference on the label and in advertising classified statements is prohibited. The only exceptions are claims referring to a reduced alcohol content or nutritional value. This also applies to wine and sparkling wine for diabetics; this means that the previously possible text "suitable for diabetics" is no longer permitted. With regard to the obligation to label allergenic substances, see there.
Further mandatory information
Bottle content or nominal volume (for example, 75 cl with the letter 'e' for calibrated), actual alcoholic strength (in % vol. in whole or half units or in degrees), and the name (company) of the bottler, indicating the country, the municipality of the head office and the actual place of bottling.
The 'optional particulars under certain conditions' are indicated on the main label or on the secondary label. However, countries have the right to make certain indications compulsory. Examples are:
The "other optional particulars" are characterising characteristics of smell and taste(fruity, fresh, tangy, subtle acidity, etc.), consumption recommendations for storage, optimum wine temperature or suitable food, information on the history of wine or winery, natural or technical conditions (area, climate, grape harvest), vineyard names(individual sites, vineyards) and explanations of terms (e.g. for ice wine).
Certain wine-making practices, although not required to appear on the label, must be indicated on the accompanying documents when wine or wine products are transported. For example, the code "B (1)" is used for an enriched wine from wine-growing zone B. The codes plus meaning:
Château Mouton-Rothschild has had its labels designed by renowned contemporary artists every year since 1945 (see there). This was then a model for many other producers; see under artist label. All aids, work and measures in the vineyard during the vegetation cycle can be found under vineyard care. Complete lists of the numerous vinification methods or cellar techniques, as well as a list of the types of wine, sparkling wine and distillate regulated by wine law can be found under vinification. Comprehensive information on wine law can be found under wine law.