In our younger and more miserable years, the mark of a good wine was determined by a simple equation: price divided by standard drinks, multiplied by zero if that bottle was Corban’s White Label. Now, though, we’re grown up, we’re sophisticated, and we’re definitely choosing bottles of wine based on how many stickers they’ve managed to squeeze on to the label.

(That’s not true – the price/standards equation still definitely holds up, but maybe if we’re buying a gift?)

But there are so many wine awards, and so many stickers, that surely they can’t all point to quality, right?

Right. Wine companies are playing pretty fast and loose when it comes to stickering these days. Stickers such as ‘100% New Zealand Wine’ set the bar pretty low – even Corban’s White Label meets that requirement, and yet it’s a wine so shameful that Corban’s doesn’t even have it listed on its own website. Sad.

Other gold labels may really just be the winery congratulating itself on having made wine for 40 years. It doesn’t necessary mean its made GOOD wine for 40 years, just that it has been fermenting grapes and bottling them for profit. A similar ploy is affixing a ‘Winemaker of the Year’ label to a bottle. That’s great, and good on them, but if they didn’t win Winemaker of the Year for that particular wine, then the label is redundant. I’m sure the Corban’s winemaker is great, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a White Label looming around the corner.

Another classic is wine reviewer endorsements. Spoilers – people pay for these. Cannot be trusted. Sad.

That’s not to say that all wine labels are bad. A Gold winner at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards has every right to boast of their accomplishment, and you can rest assured that the Air New Zealand Wine Awards are, in fact, legit. A Gold medal awarded by the East Eritrean Deerhunters Communion 70th Anniversary Dinner Wine Survey in the International Section for the New Zealand Category; Marlborough subgroup might not as much of a sure thing.

Dates are also important. Even if Corban’s were to have won a gold medal for its White Label back in 2006, there is no guarantee that the Corban’s White Label of 2018 embodies any of the qualities that led to those laurels, but wineries still boast on bottles that they won an award way back when.

So who can you trust? Your wallet, maybe. If you’re buying for someone, a surefire winner is to buy a bottle that’s on special down to about $25. There are a lot of labels out there, but not much truth.