National Library of Australia

Australian wine labels

Unknown designer Henschke ‘Hill of Grace’ Keyneton Shiraz 1969colour print on paper; 11.5 x 8.9cmSouth Australiana Collections, State Library of South Australia
Australian wine labels

Early Australian wine labels were short and to the point. One of the earliest examples was produced before 1867 by James and William Macarthur, sons of John Macarthur, the founder of Australia’s wool industry. Decorated with a grape-laden vine, the label’s text was simply: ‘Australian wine’, ‘Camden Park’ and ‘James and William Macarthur’.

Today’s labels are, by comparison, effusive—works of art in their own right.

Under current Australian wine law, a label must contain the wine’s volume, grape variety or style of the wine, alcohol content, number of standard drinks, allergens, name and address of producer, and country of origin. Everything else is optional.

For many aficionados, the golden age of wine-label design occurred in Adelaide during the 1950s, when a range of labels designed by Wytt Morro (b.1922) became the benchmark.

Morro’s front label design for Stonyfell’s Metala, an all-text affair like the more famous Penfold’s Grange label, was possibly the first in Australia to include a number for each individual bottle. Morro is best known for the famous Orlando Barossa Pearl label—released in 1956.

South Australia today produces half of all Australian wines, due in no small part, to the enormous expertise provided by migrants.