Harding’s Label Album Successfully Marries Form, Function and Factoids

“Wine is life.”

That’s an oft-quoted observation by Roman author Gaius Petronius, the man scholars believe wrote Satyricon during the first century A.D.

Considering that Satyricon is a satirical piece of literature, Petronius no doubt would have found the humor in the title of Graham Harding’s wine label album: Life Is Wine.

Either that, or he would have found a Roman lawyer and sued Harding for all of his sheep and three of his finest togas. Of course, that would have required time travel, and who knows what would happen to a wine label during that process.

But we digress…

Author Harding has come up with a natural extension of his factoid-filled book, A Wine Miscellany. With each turn of the page, Life Is Wine provides an opportunity to display a wine label (removed from a bottle, of course), and to jot down one’s own tasting notes.

Curiously, about a quarter-page of each two-page spread is allotted for writing down the name, varietal, vintage and region of the wine, along with the date tasted and the price paid. With the exception of the date and price, all of that information almost always would be found on the wine label itself. Eliminating that repetitious part of the spread would have freed up more space for tasting notes, or expanded excerpts from A Wine Miscellany.

Those excerpts provide the entertainment value in Life Is Wine, as Harding offers information on everything from Thomas Jefferson’s infatuation with Chateau d’Yquem to the oldest known wine business, and from the “secret” of modern Champagne production to the age-old debate over whether wine can be paired successfully with chocolate.

But the real genius of Life Is Wine is its binding. If you’ve ever examined a pair of expandable waist pants, you’d immediately understand the concept. The design takes into consideration the fact that labels will be added over time, thus gradually expanding the album’s “thickness.”

One small quibble: The book does not include information on how to safely remove a wine label from a bottle — something that would seem to be a natural and obvious fit for a wine label album.

Perhaps the author felt that subject already was well covered elsewhere. After all, if you Google “how to remove a wine label,” the search engine will return 760,000 results. Sometimes, however, an abundance of information can equate with an abundance of confusion. A single authoritative voice on the subject would have added value to Life Is Wine.

That said, the album — with its relatively compact size, easy-to-read typography, selection of screened-back vintage labels on the display pages (which serve to make colorful labels really “pop”) and assortment of vinous trivia — would be a welcome addition to any wine collector’s cellar or library.

— Bob Johnson


Life Is Wine: An Album for Oenophiles ($14.99) will go on sale April 3. It is published by Potter Style, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group that specializes in recipe, trivia and how-to decks; guided journals, and other paper-based novelty products. Info: www.potterstyle.com

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