I have been collecting wine labels since when I was 11 years old, in most of the cases after having tasted the content of the bottle (of course moderately). Many friends help me leaving empty bottles, some wineries donate me fresh labels and an uncle of my wife exchanges his bottles with the crowns that cover the corks of the sparkling wines.
For someone this is a maniacal behavior but collecting is a very personal choice whose motivation is not rational, since from its original idea. In my case, the spark was due to the opening of one of the first supermarkets near my home, where a small department was dedicated to a wide variety of Italian regional wines. My father started to buy one bottle of each brand, that was enough for our small family, and I started to remove every labels when the bottle was empty, of course. As at the end of 2019, I have more than 12.000 labels. For some wineries, I collect more than 30 or 40 vintages or different labels, time by time modified.
Some wine producers asked famous artist to design labels; Braque, Dalì, Mirò Chagall, Picasso and Warhol were authors for Mouton Rothschild bottles. One of the last was in 2012, Jeff Koons. Many artistic books are dedicated to highlight and present complete series – pictures or the labels themselves of specific regions or types.
A different choice is when someone ask for a personalized label, not an interest of mine. Partly because, and you might know that, my surname is an apostrophe away from a very famous wine brand in Italy!
Does it exist a price and a market for this mania? Yes of course! You can buy or exchange through internet sites or trade fairs or local small markets on the road. Personally, I prefer to search, to taste, to erase, to save and classify and to link some labels to events of my personal life. No purchases, no sales. Once I took a high risk carrying with me two bottles of a bad wine from Ethiopia in an airplane with an intermediate stop in Medina during Ramadan…
As the reader can understand, there are no very additional costs for this collection. Except for my filing binders (more than 100) and some removing tools, even if my nails are well trained, just like a surgeon’s ones!
There are many magazines dedicated to wines. I like to distinguish those with a scientific approach from those whose policy has a commercial focus that mix advertising with customized articles.
I have been enrolled to one of the firsts since my first University journey in New York in 1976. Last, but not least, modern labels are also a sound source of information about the history, the technique and the details of each wine. Those of the past were empty of information, only with the name of the wine.
I need to admit also a weakness of my collection. Usually they have an end when you own all the existing object of a classified item: many catalogues are dedicated to this. In this case, the finale result is impossible; the potential is unknown and each year you can find new labels of the existing brands and many of new productions. Something like an aporia of Zenone, a hypothesis that turn away many pure collectors that are not the right interlocutors of my small niche. Nonetheless I trust my passion.
Edited by Giuseppe G. Santorsola
Full Professor of Asset Management, Corporate Finance and Corporate & Investment Banking | Parthenope University of Neaples