I’m a traditionalist but also a realist. And I think now is the time to shake up the centuries old wine labeling and classification systems that have stood as a barrier to selling many Old World wines to American consumers. Case in point is Germany where a tradition of bad Middle Ages typography continues on some wines even today making them nearly unreadable to many. Combine that with the complexity of their labeling and classification system and you have a recipe for developing only a cult following. I’m sure even a lot of Germans don’t get it and they speak the language.
So I was heartened that progress is being made on this front by a recent post at British wine industry journal, The Drinks Business. The short piece pointed to a proposal in Germany’s Rheingau region where producers are adopting a Burgundian classification system and simplified labels. While it makes sense to label many of the regions’ fine Rieslings for the place and vineyard, I don’t think this goes far enough, at least as it applies to export markets. Varietal composition, level of sweetness and other information should also be clearly marked somewhere on the packaging. And there should also be room for interactive elements such as those now being introduced with QR codes. Only then will Old World wines have the transparency necessary to develop a following outside of the wine geek circle.