Label This!

By Amy Azzarito, Assistant Director of Online Strategy, Library at the University of California, Davis

Maynard Amerine, a professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis for nearly four decades, is widely considered to be the driving force behind the post-Prohibition wine industry in California. The over 5,000 labels he collected tell a story of the global wine industry from the 1800s through the 1950s. The Amerine wine label collection provides a meaningful window into the history of both winemaking and winemakers during a pivotal time in the industry. Our goal is to make these labels, and this history, searchable and accessible to wine lovers everywhere.

Until now, the only way to search Amerine’s collection of historic wine labels was to flip through the hundreds of spiral-bound notebooks housed in Special Collections at the UC Davis Library. In an era before computers, Amerine pasted the labels into black spiral-bound notebooks, organized by region (usually country), divided into red or white, and in some cases further divided into sub-regions or ‘appellations.’

By transcribing these labels and creating a searchable database, this project enables wine lovers and historians to walk in Amerine’s shoes as he pioneered a path through mid-20th century winemaking. When complete, the public will be able to search by vintage, varietal, region, or even the type of image on a label. For researchers around the world—historians, sommeliers, oenologists, even novelists looking for period details—this online resource will fill a gap in their understanding of wine history.

However, in order to complete the searchable database, the labels need to be transcribed, and there are too many variations in terminology and design to accomplish this by machine. Using the open source Scribe Framework built by NYPL Labs and Zooniverse, we’ve created a tool that enables you to transcribe what’s on the label. Ready to help? Get started now at


Principal Investigator: Peter Brantley, Director of Online Strategy, UC Davis Libraries