The labels of wine retailers and restaurants often contain a lot of information, but often only a fraction of it is relevant to the wines they sell.
When it comes to wine labels, this information can be overwhelming and can be confusing for consumers.
Wine labels in general tend to be written in a single word or two, which can make them difficult to read.
But a new research study from UC Davis and the University of Michigan reveals that a few different words can make a big difference in how wine labels are interpreted and how they can be used to identify the products of slavery.
In a paper published in Wine Spectator, researchers examined a variety of wine labels from six different wine producers, and compared the words that were used in each label to those that were found in a wine list published by a wine retailer.
The labels also contained labels of specific species or cultivars of grapes, and those labels were also compared to the list.
The researchers found that the use of the words “slave” and “slaves” on the label of a particular wine was associated with the label being labeled as having been produced by the owner of that wine, whereas the use on a label of grapes that had been grown by the person who owned that wine was not.
“We found that a handful of words, namely ‘slave’ and ‘slave-made’ appear on wine labels in wine retailers, but the majority of the labels contained the words ‘made’ or ‘from a slave,'” said lead author Rachel Lichtman, an associate professor of communication studies at UC Davis.
“This suggests that there are subtle differences in the way wine labels for wine are used, which we hope will lead to better understanding of the complex systems of slavery in the United States.”
“When you buy wine, you get a sense of history,” Lichtmann said.
“The labels tell you about the context of ownership, about the origins of the wine, and about the history of the slave trade.
And the context is often important in understanding the quality of a wine.”
When the researchers looked at wine labels published in a supermarket chain in the U.S., they found that many labels contained very little information about the wine producer or its ownership.
“When a wine label for a bottle of wine reads ‘made by’ or a wine producer’s label, that’s usually a clear indication that the wine was produced in the same facility or by the same person,” Lithman said.
Lichtm said the lack of information was especially important because the wine is typically a premium product and therefore the labels can be a powerful source of information about what the wine really is.
“People often associate wine with quality, but many people also associate wine, as an American consumer, with quality,” she said.
One of the researchers, Andrew Toth, said that the study is important because it helps to better understand the complexities of how wine label labeling works in the context, history and social context of the United Kingdom, where wine labels have been increasingly more common.
“Our research reveals that the words slave and slave-made appear on a variety, if not all, wine labels and labels for many other foods and beverages,” Toth said.
Toth also said that understanding the relationship between the labels on wine is important to understanding how labels can help consumers identify wines from different plantations.
“Because many people are unaware of the historical context and how wine is made, it is important that we understand what labels can and can’t tell us about a wine,” he said.
“I think it’s very important to understand how wine production is connected to slavery in that we really don’t know how that connection works and whether it has an impact on how wine gets sold,” Lothman said, adding that the findings should also help to educate consumers about the historical impact of slavery on the world’s wine supply chain.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.