The evolution of Australian wine labels

Labels are the key to understanding bottled wines. While tasting wine can reveal a lot about it, labels also provide a wealth of information. Labels are important not only from a marketing perspective but also because they tell you a lot about the company, grape varieties or blends, and where the wine was made.

Labels of French wine are a cryptic introduction to French geography and the elusive quality Terroir. This is now understood to be nature’s complex relationship with humans.

Our local labels, those small, focused stories attached to bottles, can tell us a lot about Australian history and geography. They can also reveal a great deal about our identity, Terroir, and even Australian history.

Some labels are not very old. A Yalumba promotion in the late 19th century juxtaposed images from Indigenous life and those of settler/invader wines.

Early Yalumba Label Author provided

In 2007, a contemporary Australian wine was marketed in North America under the names Hot Bikini and Lost Bikini. These labels echo the 1950s holiday postcards of beachside sauciness, but without identifying a grape variety or zone/region other than “Australia”.

These labels are both out of place. What about some other successful examples?


Gary Mills in the Yarra Valley region has named his boutique brand Jamsheed. It is a nod to the mythical and ancient history of winemaking and resonates in a multicultural, globalized Australia.

Label Jamsheed Author provided

Jamsheed, a Persian King who loved fresh grapes, stored them in jars and let them ferment spontaneously to make wine. Mills’ Jamsheed wine label features a continuous Middle Eastern pattern reminiscent of architectural flourishes from the Alhambra. It is colored to match the wine.

Ashton Hills

Is winemaking a form of art? James Halliday, the Australian wine critic, concluded that “most would agree.” Wine labels and winemaking are both creative. Brands often include art in their design.

Ashton Hills has, for example, a hand-rendered watercolor, which implies that the Adelaide Hills are cooler and lusher than its hot, dried plains. This makes for a different wine style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *