Extreme Wine-Label Decoding

The front label is a mysterious vertical strip—a stack of various-size color blocks, mostly green, yellowish, trailing into purple. That’s all she wrote. Which is to say, there’s no writing on the label at all. Not only has the wine’s brand name gone missing, but also the variety. Spot this bottle on a wine-shop shelf and you won’t even know what kind of wine is inside.

Turn the bottle around, of course, and there it all is: “Uproot Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2011 14.5% ALC BY VOL,” etc. Legally, the back label is acting as the front label (very common in this day of artistic labeling). But the minds behind Uproot are betting that we’ll gain something from the colors on the front strip—a taste impression, in fact. They’ve developed a color-coded “flavor palette,” so each of those blocks reveals a flavor in this Sauvignon Blanc: melon, fresh-cut grass, citrus, grapefruit, passion fruit. And the size of the block corresponds to how dominant that flavor is. High-level information, as it turns out!

The Uproot creators are also betting that we’ll take the time to at least form an e-relationship with them (their bottles likely won’t appear on shop shelves) and learn what the code means. They supply explanations online, and when you order their wines, you get a booklet that lets you record your own impressions, complete with flavor-color stickers. http://drinkuproot.com/

The Uproot Sauvignon Blanc happens to be delicious. I agree with the flavors color-blocked-out on the front label, but I’d add a note about the texture and mouth-feel of the wine—a little richer and mouth-filling than many Sauv Blancs. That’s because it’s made in a style (which I’m seeing more and more of) following the white Bordeaux tradition as opposed to France’s Loire Valley tradition (think Sancerre). The latter is generally fresh and bright with acidity; the former a little bigger, a more serious white, treated to oak somewhere in the winemaking process. (No judgment here—I love both styles.)

Because it’s a time of year when slightly richer, oaked Sauvignon Blancs make sense, let me give a thumbs-up to two more:

Twomey 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa and Sonoma Counties; $25). Tropical aromas lead into grass and racy limestone, with a hint of vanilla (there’s the oak). When you sip this wine, juicy green melon is spiked with puckery citrus, all against a rich mouth-feel. https://www.twomey.com/

Grgich Hills 2011 Fumé Blanc (Napa Valley; $30). Pungent guava and lemongrass wrap around melon on the nose, then a core of lemon custard is layered with fresh herbs, wet stones, and tangy citrus zest on the finish. http://www.grgich.com/

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