Adventures in Wine Selection

Written by Gary Killops



On a recent shopping trip at the LCBO I did something I thought I would never do. I purchased a bottle of wine because I liked the label.  It stood out on the shelf; I wanted it.

The bottle was smoky and the label had an old “newspaper-like” photo of a wanted man and “19 Crimes” printed in an old press typeface. At that moment, this was not about the wine or how it might taste. I didn’t care, because this purchase was all about the label. The wine was a shiraz from Australia, and actually tasted very good.

This compulsive purchase got me wondering if others have bought wine this way.  Apparently more do than I thought. Gallo Wine’s 2014 consumer wine trends survey reported that nearly two out of three wine drinkers have selected a wine because of the label.  The 2015 report digs deeper, stating that Millennials (those between 20 and 30 years old) are four times more likely than Baby Boomers to select a bottle of wine based on the label.

longweekendI wondered what the results would be if I shopped this way. I purchased the following five bottles of wine because they stood out on the LCBO shelves. The question was, after tasting the wines, would I buy any of them again?

Long Weekend Wine Company Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio (LCBO #427310, $12.95) — Who doesn’t look forward to a long weekend? The yellow retro camping van on the label stood out among the many other VQA Ontario white wines on the shelf. “Long Weekend Wine Co.” splashed across the van make it clear that this wine is for weekend relaxing.

The wine, a blend of chardonnay and pinot grigio from Niagara’s Fielding Estates, is a dry, crisp summertime sipper. Green apple, pear and peach notes. Affordable enough to share with friends. Buy again? Yes!

unionUnion Red VQA (LCBO #197152, $13.95) — This label looks more like a bag, wrapping the bottle. The red and white stripes remind me of a barbershop pole. The eye-catching colours and design stand out on the shelf. It demands attention!

Union Wines is a partnership between winemaker Dr. Allan Jackson (founder of Vincor Canada and the Jackson Triggs brand) and sommelier Andrew von Telchan.

A blend of 100% Ontario merlot, cabernet sauvignon, gamay and pinot noir. Dry, medium body, with black cherry and plums notes and a touch of spice. Buy again? Yes!

Scooleriously Cool Chardonnay (LCBO #457481, $15.95) — The contemporary abstract art label is quite noticeable on the VQA Ontario shelf. Bright pastel colours and whimsical patterns make this an attention-getter. There are several different label designs.

A blend of 65% chardonnay musque, 26% chardonnay and 9% riesling from Niagara’s Southbrook Farms. Green apple, white flowers, a hint of oak and crisp acidity, this is seriously a cool chardonnay! Buy again? Yes!

youngbruteYoung Brute Red Blend (LCBO #434654, $18.95) — The big red print on the label should be a clue to what the wine will be like. It’s in your face, you can’t miss it. While walking down the aisle full of Australian red wines many caught my attention, but Young Brute’s simple design really stands out. The use of white space allows for focus on the label’s big print.

Australian red wines are known to be big, fruit forward and ripe.

A blend of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon grapes loaded with intense, bold and juicy black fruit notes. A classic Australian powerhouse shiraz. Buy again? Yes!oleary

O’Leary Unoaked Chardonnay (LCBO #307751, $13.75) — O’Leary wines have redesigned labels and are worth taking a look at. The new label looks like a stock certificate, fitting for Kevin O’Leary. “Mr. Wonderful”, in addition to being a Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank celebrity investor, is a collector of fine wines.

The label doesn’t necessarily stand out on shelf but the branding is fantastic and fitting with the O’Leary brand.

This chardonnay, made at Vineland Estates in Niagara, is a crowd pleaser. Green apple and zesty lemon flavours that linger on the palate.  Buy again? For sure!

Most of the wines I selected were under $15 and all were under $20. This is a competitive wine category. Eye-catching labels help these bottles stand out. It’s good marketing but ultimately it’s about the wine inside the bottle. Be adventurous — make your next wine purchase based on the label appeal. You might discover a new favourite!

Gary Killops is a certified wine geek who loves to talk, taste and write about wine. He shares his wine tasting notes on EssexWineReview.com

About the author

Gary Killops

Gary Killops is a CAPS Certified Sommelier who loves to talk, taste and write about wine. He shares his wine tasting notes on EssexWineReview.com