Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Educated Wine? Or: How to Feed Your Elitism with Booze

Hypothesis Wine

Image Credit: Roots Run Deep Winery

I don't know anything about wine. I know there are reds and whites, and I know that, thankfully, they don't give me migraines.

And I'm not picky. Give me something that isn’t too acidic, nothing too sweet, and I'm happy enough to grade some student papers. But I'll admit that—when I’m choosing wine myself—I choose it entirely on one qualification, and one only: the label.

I'm in graduate school, so it will surprise no one that I purchased this wine, Roots Run Deep's "Educated Guess”:

Educated Guess Wine

Image Credit: Roots Run Deep Winery

This wine makes me feel like I've become a chemist just by drinking it.

If it looked like actual chemistry, though, I don't think I'd be interested. It's the "guess" I'm interested in—the elegant fusion between brain work and style. Sure, this label plays into my innate sense of grad-school elitism. But it's also visually striking; it suggests that a team of people slaved over this bottle and its contents in a group brainstorming session, in a messy room, with lots of chalk. It's the representation of intellectual labor that compels me. This label is showing off.

Maybe the scientists' offices across the university look like this. I hope they do. I'm struck, though, staring at this label, by how much it resembles my white board when I'm planning an essay. My white board and Prezi applications often become a chaotic collections of the refuse of my mind:

MA Prezi

Image Credit: Aubri's Computer

In fact, my Although I’m an excessively organized person, I’m also attracted to this kind of visual evidence of intellectual labor. It blends the analytical and the creative, a connection the makes of Educated Guess are happy to encourage, calling winemaking an "art vs. science" and claiming that the title came out of the kind of brainstorming session I envision when I see this label.

Of course, anyone who's ever watched five minutes of Don Draper brooding knows that title and label matter far more in product purchases than do the actual product. There are even studies that show we evaluate the flavor wines by how fancy we perceive them.

There was a good reason I very rarely choose a wine like Barefoot:


Image Credit: Barefoot Wines

This wine is the opposite of Educated guess. The label, which might fit into my colleague Deb's post on girly drinks, suggests a lack of planning: someone (the winemakers? the marketers? the consumers?) couldn't be bothered to put on shoes, let alone churn out some chemistry for a cabernet. This wine, according to its label, is not a wine for planners, not for someone making an educated guess, or even a Hypothesis (Roots Run Deep's other vintage). It’s a wine for the spontaneous, the free-spirited--for after school.

These wines are classed, but not just by their prices (both cost generally under $20, although Barefoot is cheaper). The labels play into some kind of intellectual classism. Okay, so maybe a new academic is more susceptible to this kind of thing than the average consumer. Still, I wonder: what do we get out of these labels? If, like me, you choose your wines based on a label (super-tasters need not apply), do you go for the wine that confirms some sense of elitism? Or the wine whose label asks you to let your hair down?




Hello just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know
a few of the images aren't loading properly.

I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
I've tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.