Month: May 2018

Artificial neural networks at the service of wine authenticity

By Juan Carlos Mejuto and Jesús Simal-Gándara

An artificial neural network is a mathematical prediction tool based on the reproduction of the functioning of a brain through the simulation of its basic unit, the neuron, with its ability to work together several of them, and learn from previously processed information. Each of the artificial neurons performs a very simple operation, a linear combination of the input signal (1). A neural network performs a model of approximation to the functioning of a system; hence its predictive capacity. Networks of neurons have a flexible structure and are able to establish non-linear relationships between the input and output values of the network. In addition, they can learn from real cases and re-learn when new data is introduced into the system (2-3). For example, you can make predictions in the evolution of the quality of a product (4-5), its pattern of sensory characteristics (6-7), its physicochemical characteristics, or the expected average life (8-9).

Scheme of an MLP composed of an input layer with three input variables; two hidden layers with 7 and 3 neurons, respectively; and an output layer of 4 variables. It is usually noted as 3-7-3-4, indicating the number of neurons in each layer.

Among all known neural network architectures, the most suitable for engineering processes due to its universal approach capability is the multilayer perceptron (usually MLP, for its acronym in English) (3). This type of network consists of a layer of input neurons, an intermediate layer known as a hidden layer, and a last output layer. The neurons of the input layer collect the data of the chosen variables and introduce them into the network following an input vector. This vector propagates the information to the next layer following an activation rule that is a function of a value called weight and another known as bias. A similar calculation of weights and bias occurs in the neurons of the hidden layer, although a non-linear function is applied. At the end, an error calculation is performed at the output of the neural network. The learning algorithm is responsible for modifying the weights to minimize the value of the error in each calculation cycle. Usually the backpropagation algorithm is used, which modifies the weights of the input variables depending on the signal of the network output. If the error is acceptable, the training ends here, but otherwise the whole process is repeated. The procedure when training a neural network is to take a series of known cases and divide them into two groups. The cases are formed by the values of the input variables of the network and the known real value of the output variable. In this way, with the first group (training group) the network is trained to compare its predictions with the known real value of each case and adjust until the error is assumable. Once the training is over, the prediction capacity of the network is checked with the cases of the second group (validation group). If the training has been successful, an assumable error in the prediction of validation cases will be obtained.

In our group, we have developed neural networks capable of predicting the type of wine produced by a red wine (10), specifically from the Green Wine Region, located in the northwest of Portugal, in an area characterized by the influence of the ocean Atlantic and a fluvial network embedded in an irregular land. There, under a mild climate of abundant rainfall, especially in winter and spring, and with the name Vinho Verde, acid red wines of low alcoholic strength are produced. Its traditional production includes the pressing of the harvest just after harvesting, and its joint fermentation of both the must and the skins, seeds and scrapes. This produces wines with high anthocyanin content, important because they give these wines their intense purple coloration, but also tend to cause over-extraction of tannins, which causes an excess of astringency on the palate. To implement the artificial neural network, we have worked with various input variables, such as the year of harvest, the clarification technique used, its absorbance at different wavelengths, the concentration of anthocyanins, some physicochemical indices or sensory variables. It is important to highlight that it is not necessary to know relationships between variables; an MLP will establish a correlation between them, which is known as a universal approximation. In this way, knowing the values for the variables of a problem wine, the network allows us to calculate what the winemaking process has been. The result has been surprising since we have obtained correlations with values of R2 greater than 0.9795, which implies that the artificial neural networks can be a valuable tool to evaluate the authenticity of the wine. In fact, neural networks are a portentous resource for multiple applications in the agro-food field (11-12).

Geographic area of the Vinhos Verdes.

  1. Rumelhart, D.E., McClelland, J.L., & Williams, R.J. (1986). Parallel recognition in modern computer processing: Explorations in the microstructure of cognition (Vol. 1). Cambridge: MIT Press.
  2. Hecht-Nielson, R. (1987). Kolmogorov’s mapping neural network existence theorem, 1st IEEE IJCNN (Vol. 3). San Diego, CA: IEEE.
    Leonard, J., & Kramer, M.A. (1990). Computers and Chemical Engineering, 14, 337–341.
  3. Ni, H., & Gunasekaran, S. (1998). Food Technology, 52, 60–65.
  4. Xie, G., & Xiong, R. (1999). Journal of Food Engineering, 41, 151–162.
  5. Park, B., Chen, Y.R., Whittaker, A.D., Miller, R.K., & Hale, D.S. (1994). Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 37, 1547–1553.
  6. Singh, R.R.B., Ruhil, A.P., Jain, D.K., Patel, A.A., & Patil, G.R. (2009). Journal of Food Engineering, 92, 146–151.
  7. Ko, S.H., Park, E.Y., Han, K.Y., Noh, B.S., & Kim, S.S. (2000). Food Engineering Progress, 4, 193–198.
  8. Vallejo-Cordoba, B., Arteaga, G.E., & Nakai, S. (1995). Journal of Food Science, 60, 885–888.
  9. Astray, G., Castillo, J.X., Ferreiro-Lage, J.A., J.F. Gálvez, J.C. Mejuto (2010) Journal of Food, 8, 79-86.
  10. Gonzalez-Fernández, I.; Iglesias-Otero, M.A.; Esteki, M.; Moldes, O.A.; Mejuto, J.C.; Simal-Gándara, J. (2018) Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition,
  11. Moldes, O.A.; Mejuto, J.C.; Rial-Otero, R.; Simal-Gándara, J. (2017). Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 13, 2896-2908.

Juan Carlos Mejuto (, Professor in the Physical Chemistry Department of University of Vigo (Spain)at Ourense Campus. He is the head of the Colloids Group at Ourense Campus. His research interest comprises (i) physical organic and physical inorganic chemistry, (ii) reactivity mechanisms in homogeneous and micro heterogeneous media, (iii) stability of self-assembly aggregates and (iv) supramolecular chemistry. Actually, he is a member of a research team working on agro-environmental sciences and food chemistry. More info at

Jesus Simal-Gandara (, Professor in Nutrition and Food Science at the Faculty of Food Science and Technology, University of Vigo (Spain), since 1999. He now leads a research group of excellence at NW Spain, in addition to CIA3 (Environmental, Agricultural and Food Research Center), and is the Head of the Department of Analytical Chemistry and Food Science at the University of Vigo. He performed research stays at the Université de Paris-Sud (Paris, France), University of Delaware (Newark, USA), Fraunhofer-Institut für Lebensmitteltechnologie und Verpackung (Munich, Germany), Central Science Laboratory (Norwich and York, UK), TNO-Voeding (Zeist, Netherlands), Packaging Industries Research Association (Leatherhead, UK) and The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (Gothenburg, Sweden). His focus today is on the study of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from the point of view of public health (epidemiology, toxicity of mixtures, metabolites ...), and on the study of secondary metabolites in plant foods, exploring the molecular mechanisms that explain their activity. More info at

Posted by in Enology, Food Science and Technology

The role of the wine bloggers in science

By Paula Silva

One of the main purposes of Science & Wine blog is to make wine science information more accessible. As a researcher, I believe that wine sector development must be based in scientific knowledge. The future of wine sector must be prepared by anticipating the upcoming problems and build a solution strategy based in scientific guidelines. Why a blog? Because, for readers, blogs are an easy way to access a large amount of cutting-edge information with some expert analysis on emerging and controversial issues. This adventure forced me to explore the core of wine blogosphere. I was surprised by the numerous wine blogs that exist. In Vinography blog we can find a list, maybe incomplete, of 983 wine blogs. The list comprises blogs with different purposes: “wines review”, “wine and food”, “wine education”, “winemaking and viticulture”, “specific region”, “wine and culture”, “winery blog”, “wine business” and “other”. Among bloggers we found journalists, wineries, marketers and retailers, wine writers, wine businesses, consumers that built a website to share their passion for wine, provide wine news, review wines and provide ratings, promote and sell wine and wine related products and finally to share their wine-travel experiences. The 40 wine blogs that, according with Julien Miquel, are the ones that must be followed in 2018, mainly contain wine reviews and informational or opinion pieces about wine. This blog approach allows or encourages various types of activities, such as commercial, social, or a combination of the two. Therefore, the behavior and activity of wine bloggers can directly or indirectly affect the thoughts, feeling, and actions of others in population.

Amanda Barnes

Leeann Froese

Magnus Reuterdahl

Andrew Graham

Since there are no official guidelines or rules regarding what can be published, I decided to explore the importance of scientific knowledge in the professional life of a blogger. I want to thank to Amanda Barnes, Andrew Graham, Bjarne Mouridsen, Hugo Sousa Machado, Leeann Froese and Magnus Reuterdahl for accepting to answer my questions. For all of them, scientific research is very important in their blogger professional life. As journalists, Bjarne Mouridsen and Amanda Barnes, agree that searching for scientific information it is part of the job. Only scientific results allow them to achieve the confidence of their readers. For Hugo Machado this scientific validation is like a “warranty” of the post. Bjarne Mouridsen knows that it is important just not writing about wine but trying to get beyond it, and write about what happens in vineyard, in cellar and in a taste chamber. Therefore, topics like terroir, grape varieties, vinification, oxidation, technology and chemistry are very important for him. This view is shared for all. Hugo Machado would also show interest to know how scientific knowledge is directly reflected in the producer’s activity. Wine science also comprise market studies, a research area where investigation is also fundamental. Andrew Graham write for a trade-focused magazine (National Liquor News) and to write about consumer trends and buying habits needs to scan economic data like buying preferences. For Magnus Reuterdahl scientific research is a process to understand different choices of the wine grower and/or maker. Magnus also highlighted the importance of scientific research to recognize the important place of the wine in local and regional cultures. For someone who has worked in wine for more than 20 years, Leeann Froese think it is important to know what the latest developments to know what can be done to help to make the best possible and reliable quality wine. In summary, scientific research is used for bloggers to gain knowledge, credibility, confidence and to be always update.

Bjarne Mouridsen

Regarding information sources, all the bloggers seem to look for it in the same places: scientific papers, books, online databases and articles in specialized magazines. All of them also use the interview as a tool to get information. Andrew Graham look for scientific information to write his posts in scientific papers published in journals that are in online database that he can access through university library (Uni of Melbourne). He also like have some contacts that have data about wine consume. If possible, Bjarne Mouridsen search for information in wine magazines (if they have articles about it) and in books. Right now, he is reading David Birds book “Understanding Wine Technology”. Bjarne also like to obtain information directly from researchers, at moment, he is doing interviews to people involved in PORVID (Associação Portuguesa para a Diversidade da Videira). Depending on the nature of the information, Leeann Froese looks to university-published papers or to those organizations and generic boards that would fund studies or publish study results. She also read trade-related magazines and try to find scientific information there. Magnus Reuterdahl look up in books written by scientists and professionals, different on-line sources, wine makers and oenologists – most often in combination. Amanda Barnes look for information accordingly with the story that she is writing. For example, she wrote pieces on research done at UC Davis and so for that she looked at the specific research and thesis. She also wrote about climate change in South America, and at that time she interviewed several scientists, climatologists and winemakers. Hugo Machado get data in sites and blogs, where reports and articles are published, specialized magazines, books and conference records.

Hugo Sousa Machado

If all agree that is important to obtain feedback from researchers to obtain reliable information for their posts, regarding the input that bloggers can give to science, they have different opinions. Andrew Graham has not doubts that bloggers could help researchers. However, he is worried with the decrease of, at least in Australia, the number of wine bloggers that are at moment in activity. Bjarne Mouridsen thinks wine bloggers can help when it comes to asking questions, that researchers can use in their work. For Leeann Froese, bloggers can help scientists that are looking to poll or gather data from a wide audience, on the data collection phase, by spreading the word. Once study results are available, wine bloggers can use the same access to a large audience to share results. Bloggers can potentially help to distill scientific information that is very technical, and full of jargon not known by the public and explain it in easy-to-understand terminology. Magnus Reuterdahl mentioned that there are a lot of bloggers with very specialized knowledge that can give background info as well as in depth knowledge. As with all sources they must be judged on a personal basis, i.e. some are great some are bull. He is sure that many bloggers have a genuine drive to share their passion and makes them relevant to their readers and for researchers and professionals. Amanda Barnes and Hugo Machado were the ones with more doubts regarding this issue, however, they think that working together in an open network is beneficial for all.

In conclusion, the growth of wine blogs and other social networks (e.g., Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook), on the Internet has been phenomenal. Wine is a popular issue, so wine blogs can attract tremendous attention and exert great influence on society. The importance that blogs have in wine sector makes them a universal gateway and an easily accessible channel of information retrieval and communication on scientific topics. Indeed, blogs can synthesize and facilitate access to research findings in various field, providing a broad vision of wine science. This increase the bloggers responsibility about the veracity of their contents, since this channel of communication do not present the same level of selection, quality control, or improvement process demanded by peer-review journals. With content quality assured, blogs represent user-friendly, interactive, and efficient tools for the development of online research communities, and they are a powerful means of sharing scientific information, analysis.

Posted by in Curiosities

Wine metabolome

By Panagiotis Arapitsas

According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), wine is defined as the beverage resulting exclusively from the partial or complete alcoholic fermentation of fresh grapes. On the other hand, wine scientists in order to define, study and understand wine, divide it up into its individual components. In fact, the classic scientific approach to study any sample is to use targeted methods able to provide information about a small and well-defined number of metabolites (e.g. only some specific sugars or lipids or polyphenols). Lately, scientist started to use holistic/untargeted analytical approaches and try to follow the largest number of metabolites possible, without pre-define the metabolites of interest. Researchers working in this field known as metabolomics, are usually surprised in front of the richness of the wine metabolic fingerprint.In fact, between others, wine is a unique food/beverage because of its wide metabolic space coverage. Wine could be the richest food/beverage in term of number of metabolites. Let's see why:

1. Grape is the necessary raw material to produce wine. We could assume that grape contain an analogous number of metabolites with most the fresh fruits and vegetables. However, due to economical, cultural and historical issues, grapevines comprise a high biodiversity, since thousand of cultivars are known and cultivated around the world. Therefore, wine-makers often use more than one cultivar for the production of a wine, in order to combine their characteristics and thus the metabolites, and produce more complex and equilibrate final products. Usually the cultivars mixed have a very diverse sensorial profile, which can be explain by the diverse metabolic profile.
Examples of metabolites found in grapes: sugars (e.g. glucose and fructose), sugar alcohols (e.g. inositol), lipids, vitamins, amino acids, amines, bounded and free terpenoids or other volatiles/aromatic compounds, bound and free polyphenols (e.g. anthocyanins, flavanols, flavonols and stilbenoids), organic acids (e.g. tartaric acid) and several sulfur compounds.

2. The mandatory process for wine production is the alcoholic fermentation, by added or indigenous yeasts. However, this process is not limited to the production of ethanol from sugars. The known metabolism of yeast include several metabolites, belonging to the cycle of Krebs, the Ehrlich reaction, the liberation of several bounded metabolites, the fragmentation of big metabolites (e.g. lipids), the polymerization of others (tannins), catabolites of tryptophan ( serotonin and melatonin), sulfur compounds, etc. The presence of about 10% of ethanol help to make soluble (and maybe more bioavailable) several lipophilic metabolites, where in most of the other liquid foods are eliminated or partially removed as sediment.

3. For the production of many red wines the malolactic fermentation by bacteria follows the alcoholic one in order to stabilize the final product. The bacteria, next to the production of lactic acid from malic acid, consume also several other metabolites and deliver various new, enriching further the wine metabolome.

4. During winemaking, the oenologist uses several techniques in order to improve the quality of the final product. For example the microxygenation, which provoke thousands of changes to the metabolic profile of the wine, affecting the color stability and the texture of the wine (Arapitsas et al., Plos one, 2012).
A second important example is the addition of the the antimicrobial and antioxidant agent SO2. Due to its reactivity, SO2 has a great influence to the wine metabolic fingerprint and quality (Arapitsas et al., J Chrom A, 2014; Arapitsas et al. Scientific Reports, 2018; Roullier-Gall et al., Food Chemistry, 2017).
A third important practise is the use of wooden barrels. Wine, during its contact with the wood, is enriched with several metabolites extracted from the barrel, while various new metabolites are formed due to the introduction of the oxygen through the porous of the wood (Gougeon et al., PNAS, 2009).


5. Already the above four elements introduce many metabolites to the food called wine. But there is a final important player: time. Consumers prefer to eat and drink the majority of the foodstuff more fresh possible, and long storage is correlated with sensorial and nutritional value loss. Wine is one of the few foods where aging is positively correlated because the consumers know that the quality of several wines improves with the time. Many premium red wines (Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone, Burgundy Pinot noir, Naoussa, Tannat, etc) are very aggressive when young, but with time/aging they getting smoother, they gain sensorial complexity and as result they increase their value. The sensorial changes occurring during aging are translated in thousands of reactions and metabolic variations (oxidations, reductions, metathesis, polymerizations, hydrolysis, etc) (Arapitsas et al. Metabolomics, 2014; Jeandet et al., PNAS, 2015; Arapitsas et al. Scientific Reports, 2018; Roullier-Gall et al., Food Chemistry, 2017 ).


The about 2000 known wine metabolites are just the top of the iceberg, because many detectable metabolites are unknown and many more are undetectable with current analytical technology. Recent publications in wine metabolomics reported over 10 000 features (signals) registered in a wine holistic analysis. Such a complex matrix could be comperated only with the human metabolome. All the above make wine one of the most interesting and appealing model vehicle to study complex metabolic environments.


Panagiotis Arapitsas studied Oenology and Beverage technology at T.E.I. of Athens (Greece) and later he earned his M.Sc. in Methods of Synthesis in Organic Chemistry and his Ph.D. in Polyphenols Chemistry and Food Quality at the University of Florence (Italy). During this period, his research activity was divided in laboratories of Analytical Chemistry (T.E.I. of Athens, University of Gent, University of Florence, and University of Uppsala), Organic Synthesis (University of Florence), Electrochemistry (University of Florence), Microbiology (Universities of Turin and Perugia), and wineries (Greece and Italy).
In 2010 he joined the Food Quality and Nutrition Department of Fondazione Edmund Mach where his activity focused in Food and Wine Metabolomics. In particular, his object is to establish methodologies for investigating fruit and wine metabolomes, by developing analytical protocols mainly with LC-MS techniques, data treatment and biomarker identification and validation.


Posted by in Food Science and Technology, Viticulture

Monthly Assignment Challenge – May

The wine label, a modest piece of paper

By Maria Ferrand

Yes, Paula Silva, I would be honoured to continue your post on ‘The science behind the wine label’. However, I have to admit that your solemn title left me a bit nervous. After all, I am not a scientist, and even as a researcher, I consider myself a novice in academic writing. So I thought it might be appropriate to borrow the words in my title from those of François Guichard in his essay on the language of labels (2000). Although it might sound provocative, it reflects my approach to this topic as both a researcher and a practitioner: wine labels are, indeed, ‘a modest piece of paper’ – yet they hold an enormous communicational and symbolic potential. Acknowledging this paradoxical definition of wine labels implies a two-way posture whose interests may not be incompatible: on the one hand, the 'humble' character of wine labels reminds us that wine is undoubtedly the most important thing. On the other hand, the design of wine labels is a crucial aspect of contemporary wine communication. And for wines operating in the global market, it is inescapable. As designers communicate both the tangible and intangible qualities of wines, their work becomes a resource of added-value beyond viticulture and oenology (Branco and Alvelos, 2009; Keers, 2014)

How can that work be best conducted to suit the complex demands of consumption while benefiting the wines and their producers? Fernando Gutiérrez, who designs labels for reputed Spanish vintners, remarks that ‘wine is a very closed world’, where suspicion of design often pairs with the idea that branding is inessential. This viewpoint persists amongst the most complacent winemakers, who champion that wine quality speaks for itself, and therefore is sufficient to ensure its market value (Keers, 2014). Likewise, in Authentic Wine (2011), Goode and Harrop observe that in the wine sector marketing is disconcertingly simplistic and neglected, especially compared to other markets or industries. They also note that New World stakeholders reveal a different attitude from those of the Old World, which usually results in more refined forms of communication.

Goode and Harrop (2011) defend an increasing emphasis on wine quality which ought to be reflected in a more accomplished communication, namely in wine labels. The authors highlight the performance of small wineries, for the effective means by which they value themselves through 'interesting' and distinctive stories. Moreover, and regardless of their geographical origin, the best representatives of this tactic often apply it in a sophisticated way without expending substantial financial resources. With my research, which focuses on dry wines of the Douro Demarcated Region (DDR), I attempt to demonstrate that wine labels are powerful design artefacts which extend their commercial purpose beyond a primary (and mandatory) informative function. As they transmit the distinctive identity and cultural heritage of Douro wines with a cost-effective form of innovation and adding value, they may contribute to the craft’s sustainability (Appadurai, 2013; Dilnot and Margolin, 2015). Furthermore, my study aims at bridging the worlds of design and winemaking by opening a new debate within the DDR.

Within this debate, a central question is raised as to why territorial branding ought to be considered a core strategy for the label design of DOC Douro wines. The notion of territorial branding is informed by the concepts of terroir and place of origin (Charters, 2011; 2014). This strategy, the study advocates, might be shared by different stakeholders within the DDR with an advantage for the broader wine craft, in the view of long-term benefits. Making wine in the Douro will never be easy, inexpensive, or plentiful. The DDR’s intricate and interdependent circumstances – characterised by harsh physical conditions, a costly production and low yields, –, as well as the fast and unpredictable changes in worldwide consumption, make it very difficult to extract profit directly from wine production and to compete in the global wine trade (Barreto, 2014). Otherwise, the Douro can also be defined by an ‘excess of identity’. The latter is the result of a long history of viticultural and mercantile tradition, cross-cultural influences, as well as an extensive and outstanding natural and cultural patrimony (Pereira, 2006; Domingues, 2017). Therefore, the conditions of producing and branding wine in the DDR are at the same time problematic, exceptional, and promising.

Responding to this challenging scenario, during the last three decades an impressive development of Douro studies emerged in academia, mainly in the fields of history, social science, anthropology, biotechnology, environmental sciences, geography, viticulture, agrarian technologies and oenology. Likewise, as evidenced in your post, Paula, significant research on the topic of wine labels has been conducted in the fields of management, marketing and economics. Contrastingly, the wine footprint of Portuguese design studies is very low. In Portugal, up to the present date, only three major works of which there is a record address the Douro wine craft from the design’s perspective. The first one, Magda Barata’s The Identity of Port wine through the tradition of its packaging (2009), aims to explain how different historical, technological, regulatory, and commercial aspects of the port wine craft have been transferred into the visual identity of this product. A second design study addressing the Douro wine craft is Helena Lobo’s doctoral thesis, The Visual Identity and Graphic Typology of Port Wine: Wiese & Krohn (1865–2010), published in 2014. This work is an extensive documental analysis of a body of visual ephemera belonging to one single company – Wiese & Krohn.


The third work is a result of the exhibition Images of Port Wine: Labels and Posters, which was held in 2010 at the Douro Museum, in Peso da Régua, and the following year at the University of Porto. Curated by designer Francisco Providência, it displayed a collection of historical labels, packaging and posters. Its principal motivation was to highlight the importance of these artefacts in the history and the construction of port wine’s identity. Simultaneously, an extensive illustrated catalogue was published with essays of design scholars Francisco Providência (on the visual identity of port wine), Helena Barbosa (on port wine posters) and Magda Barata (on port wine labels). Although it has proved extremely useful, this scarce academic production is an intriguing finding, especially considering the growing professional engagement of designers in the craft. Furthermore, the fact that all three works refer to port wine and historical ephemera opens a research gap in respect to Douro's dry wines, on the one side, and to a more contemporary communication, on the other. My inquiry, therefore, is motivated by a critique of the status quo and develops into a proposition of positive change. Rather than focusing on a particular feature (e.g. typeface, logo, colour, format, an illustration, etc.), the research's primary concern is the underlying message in wine labels – within a holistic approach to the identity and differentiation of DOC Douro wines.


The study’s discussion, informed by state-of-the-art design practices is not conducted by the process of the scientific method (hence my reluctance in addressing the ‘science’ behind the wine label). Instead, it is framed within a particular approach coined by Nigel Cross as ‘Designerly’ ways of knowing (2001). This framework builds on what the scholar considers to be a sound knowledge that is specific to design thinking, design acting and designers’ own understanding of artefacts. The ‘designerly’ knowledge is thus gained from both design practice and the distinguishing culture of the discipline. The study might ask what would then make a ‘good’ wine label. As a work involving a great degree of subjectivity, empathy and aesthetic fluctuations, there are no absolute certainties in design. But there are principles and directions that ought to be considered (Cross, 2001). In this sense, a ‘good’ wine label design should:

1. Display with clarity what the consumer wants to know;
2. Display what the consumer might not want to know yet is mandatory information;
3. Present the contents of points 1 and 2 with rigour, as well as with formal and conceptual coherence;
4. Use adequate and good-quality materials and resources;
5. Incorporate visual signs of semantic and aesthetic value, which respect the product and its context;
6. Disclose an overall outcome that goes beyond expectation.

Accomplishing all these requirements with eloquence is the ultimate challenge of every wine label assignment. Designer Chuck House (2003) argues that both the processes of making wine and designing labels follow certain recurrent patterns, but the way in which each one deviates from that pattern, offers the clue to its distinctive identity. House adds that due to the growing complexity and refinement of print production, designing wine labels today may also require exceptional technical expertise. Finally, Guichard (2000) recognises that the design process or the transformation of concepts and regulations into a limited, yet accomplished surface demands laconic, ingenious and sophisticated work.

Can all of this be achieved in a modest piece of paper?

Maria Ferrand is a communication designer who is currently conducting her PhD at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the label design of DOC Douro wines, and the ‘designerly’ use of the concept of territorial branding. A design lecturer for more than 20 years, with an MA degree in Multimedia Arts, she has taught in the fields of graphic design, typography and illustration. As an author and a practitioner, she has worked across multimedia design, visual identity, editorial design, and illustration. Attempting to escape from her comfort zone, Maria entered the wine world by a rather convoluted route, completely diverging from both her professional and academic path. Yet given her growing passion for the wines and their image, she might be around for a while.


  1. Guichard, F. (2000) Le dit et le non-dit du vin: le langage des etiquettes, Annales de Géographie, 614–615: 364–380
  2. Branco, V. and Alvelos, H. (2009) Strategies Towards the Enhancement of the Symbolic Value of Portuguese Artifacts. 8th European Academy of Design Conference, April 2009, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland.
  3. Keers, P. (2014) Process and Poetry. Eye Magazine Food Special Issue no. 87 vol. 22: 87-95
  4. Goode, J. and Harrop, S. (2011) Authentic wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking. Los Angeles, California, University of California Press
  5. Appadurai, A. (1986) Introduction: Commodities and the politics of value. In: Appadurai, A. Ed. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 3-63
  6. Dilnot, C. and Margolin, V. (2015) Introduction to the scientific production (2002-2011): contributions to the formation of the Interpretation Centre for Portuguese Design (CIDES.PT). Precedents: Genealogy of Design’s Museology at the University of Aveiro. Aveiro, UA Editora, ID+
  7. Charters, S. et. al (2011) The Territorial Brand in Wine. 6th AWBR International Conference, Bordeaux Management School.Charters
  8. Charters, S. and Michaux, V. (2014) Strategies for wine territories and clusters: why focus on territorial governance and territorial branding?, Journal of Wine Research, 25:1, 1-4
  9. Barreto, A. (2014) Douro – Rio, Gente e Vinho. Lisboa, Relógio d’Água Editores
  10. Pereira, G. (2006) A Evolução Histórica. In: Soeiro, T. et. al (2006) Viver e saber fazer – Tecnologias tradicionais na região do Douro. Peso da Régua, Fundação Museu do Douro.
  11. Domingues, A. (2017) Volta a Portugal. Contraponto Editora
  12. Barata, M. (2009) Identidade do Vinho do Porto, pela Tradição da sua Embalagem. MA Thesis, Aveiro University, DCA.
  13. Lobo, H. (2014) Identidade Visual e Tipologia Gráfica do Vinho do Porto: Wiese & Krohn (1865-2010). PhD thesis, Universitat Politècnica de València.
  14. Providência, F., Barbosa, H. and Barata, M. [coord.] (2010) Imagens do Vinho do Porto: rótulos e cartazes. Images of Port Wine: labels and posters. Peso da Régua: Fundação Museu do Douro
  15. Cross, N. (2001). Designerly ways of knowing: design discipline versus design science. Design Issues, 17(3): 49–55
  16. Caldewey, J. And House, C. (2003) Icon – Art of the Wine Label. San Francisco, Wine Appreciation Guild
Posted by in Economy | Marketing, History