The wine industry is failing blind and partially sighted drinkers by not including Braille on wine labels, despite there being little technical reasons preventing such additions. That is the opinion of industry observers, echoed by a leading British label manufacturer,
Littlehampton-based printer AJS Labels has the capability of adding Braille to labels but is frustrated that vineyards and designers are not coming forward to print labels with Braille.
AJS Labels account manager David Wooster says: “We do not see that there will be any problem in producing Braille wine labels. I have a recent label that we produced using the same tactile varnish that we use to produce Braille labels to give a raised thermograph effect to the wine name. This was printed using digital, flexo and screen for the tactile varnish on an Avery Matt Wine stock which is suitable for the ice bucket. We do not specifically have a minimum order; however a good starting point would be a quantity of say 250 or 500.”
The recent history of Braille on wine labels can trace its roots back to a French vineyard just over two decades ago. Michel Chapoutier, a renowned wine maker from the Rhone valley in south eastern France, acquired a vineyard in Hermitage, formerly owned by Monier de La Sizeranne, a president of the Association of the Blind in France, De La Sizeranne was himself blind.
In 1996, Chapoutier released a wine named Sizeranne, in tribute to de La Sizeranne, which included Braille. He then extended Braille to all his subsequent labels.
Despite AJS Labels’ frustration, few vineyards have subsequently copied Chpoutier’s example. In Spain, Lazarus Wine is produced by blind winemakers. Other examples have been produced in Italy, the Czech Republic and Australia in recent years. At the same time, a few wineries and vineyards have produced Braille and larger print tasting notes.
While legislative and regulatory dictates from Brussels and elsewhere determine the written content of labels on English and Welsh wine labels. There is no regulatory or legislative requirement to include Braille on such labels but observers suggest that the domestic industry might be missing a trick. AJS Labels is convinced that adding Braille to traditional labels is inexpensive and convenient and relatively problem-free.
By adding Braille to English and Welsh wine would introduce such wine to the blind and partially-sighted consumer, stealing a march on those countries and growers that fail to include such additions to the label.
As long ago as 1997, it was being written that Braille would become a significant element of wine label content. This prediction has yet to come to realisation.
English and Welsh wine, with its generally lower alcoholic content compared with both Old and New wines, already has a significant advantage on the shop shelf. If it is to embrace Braille, might that not be a second advantage producers could enjoy?
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