Stories Behind the Labels


Author: Dr. John Heywood

Publication date: 01-09-2007

ISBN: 978-1-908282-95-8

French wine is possibly the most varied product in the world.

It varies by region and by quality, by chateau and sometimes by the particular vineyards within a chateau. And yet, to the customer, it is marketed in bottles that are almost identical.

The only way to distinguish the product is through the label and the information contained on it.

John Heywood's extensive study of French wine labels traverses the French landscape from Bordeaux to the Rhone Valley and from Burgundy to the Loire.

It takes in some of the history of France itself as it examines the product that defines France to the world, and to itself.

Whether you are a wine-lover or an occasional tippler, this book will increase your knowledge - not merely of labels, but also of the wines they describe.

From the vin de tables to the finest Cru's, this book covers all types of wine produced in France and explains some of the arcane terms and descriptions that their labels use - and what they mean.

The development of New World wines has often been attributed to their simplicity in labelling. This book explains all the complexity of French wine that can be divined from the label and aid in its enjoyment and pleasure.

It will also encourage the reader to make a more detailed exploration of the wide ranging literature that is available on the subject and not always to be found in shops.

It is a unique study – as unique as the many bottles and labels it describes.

About the Author

John Heywood is a retired university professor who has spent most of his vacations during the last thirty years collecting wine memorabilia while touring France and its vineyards.


The original intention of this manuscript was to provide a commentary on the wine memorabilia- labels, books, journals, pamphlets and corks- that my wife and I had collected during thirty years of travel to France - that we have presented as an addition to the special collection in cookery held by the University of Leeds library. The task was rather larger than I imagined when I began and the limited edition of this book is the result.

The story of how the collection came to be made and the book written is set down in chapter I. It will show that the late Piers Dutton wine merchant of Chester provided the inspiration and encouragement for this long journey through the vineyards of France. Through his travel books and correspondence Richard Binns showed us a France that we would not otherwise have seen. This book is dedicated to them and to Pauline who accompanied me on these many travels.

The labels with very few exceptions were taken from bottles that we, Pauline my wife and I, had purchased and whose contents we had drunk. Apart from the search for information many of the books were collected to help us understand the changes that had taken place in the wine industry, particularly the French wine industry since the end of the second-world war. Most of them of them are in English for it may justifiably be held that British writers, more particularly Hugh Johnson laid the foundations of the burgeoning field of wine writing. Moreover, the writings of French oenologists such as Professors Emile Peynaud and Pascal Ribéreau-Gayon are available in translation. Nevertheless, apart from the scientific works there is a growing field of more popular literature in French that is represented in the collection. The collection is augmented by numerous pamphlets produced in English by French wine and tourist agencies for the promotion of French wine without which a study of change in French wine commerce would be incomplete (see chapter II). The story told in these documents is one of continuing but small change with the occasional large event. In the last few years books and pamphlets were collected to show that change. In the future, and not far into that future it will be possible to examine the impact of the web on marketing and the market. I would like to thank the wine producers, writers and pamphleteers for all the pleasure they have given me in this thirty year journey.

I am grateful to Richard Bamfield MW who at the time was Piers colleague for introductions to members of the wine trade in Bordeaux and Burgundy and especially to M. Marc Vachet then of Antonin Rodet, now export director of the La Chablisienne commercial group (BCB Export) who has given me much help over the years. Recently I have been greatly helped by Anthony Jackson formerly of Berry Bros and Rudd, Dublin who also introduced me to M Frederik Rudebeck, President of the Bordeaux négociant H and O. Beyerman. M. Rudebeck and, his former colleague Thomas Knudsen gave me great encouragement and help. Sean Gilley provided me with the photograph of his shop front that heads chapter 3 as well as helpful advice. He also took the photograph of Label 6.46 in my hands when I purchased the bottle from him, and the photograph of the exhibit that heads chapter 4 which he would not allow me to touch! Otherwise the photography is mine. Mr John Avery MW allowed me to reproduce the drawings at the heads of chapters 5 and 9 by Bristol artist Vicki Mortimer that appeared in his 1985 wine list. Terence Cosgrave gave me valuable advice.

The book would not have been put together without the help of Mr Paddy Geohegan and Mr Richard Geohegan. Paddy allowed me the use of his photographic and copying equipment and Richard spent much time helping me copy and edit the labels and exhibits. I am very grateful to both of them for this service. Finally, last but by no means least, a big thank you to Steven Weekes of "Original Writing" who put it all together and was very patient in so doing. As the reader will see detaching labels is not a particularly easy task, especially when adhesive papers are used (chapter 1) and this meant that Steven had the very difficult task of making the labels as square as possible, for which I am very grateful. His colleague Garrett Bonner kept us calm and managed us through the project.

John Heywood
May 2011

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