For those who have the gift of sight, have you ever thought about how challenging it might be to choose a bottle of wine in a store on at home in a wine cellar if you were visually impaired?

While many people ask for recommendations and opinions in a wine store, most do not have to ask someone to read the label on their behalf. Facing this kind of challenge can possibly take away from a person’s independence, may make them feel vulnerable particularly if that person’s request is met with impatience, rudeness or even deceit.


Winemaker Michel Chapoutier, Advocate for the Visually Impaired

One wine label has decided to change this: M. Chapoutier of Tain l’Hermitage, France. According to his website Michel Chapoutier is:

A pioneering spirit, Michel Chapoutier always has a new challenge on his mind, ever on the move, his eyes fixed on the horizon. He conveys his ambition to his team, sowing ideas to make them grow, never following nor copying, always initiating and creating, opening the way. He takes his convictions to their logical conclusion, with no fear of being side-tracked or going against the grain.

It is no surprise that Chapoutier is the first winery to have braille on the label of all bottles. There are two different stories of how braille came to be on the Chapoutier labels.
The first version of the story is that Michel Chapoutier wanted to honor Maurice Monier de la Sizeranne, who created a form of modern abbreviated braille and was the original owner of the Hermitage la Sizeranne. As Maurice Monier de la Sizeranne got older his eye sight began to fail and he often spoke about the difficulties in picking out wine because of his sight.

The 2nd version of the story is that one night Michel was watching TV and heard his friend, musician Gilbert Montagne, talking about being blind and trying to buy wine. Montagne was explaining that he never felt comfortable going into a wine shop alone because he didn’t know which wines he was picking up. Therefore, participating in the simple act of buying wine caused him anxiety because he always had to be accompanied by a friend or clerk who could describe the wines he was choosing.

Perhaps the true version of events is a combination of both.


No Patent on the Wine Labelling Technology for Braille

Why? ALL wineries should have the option to use this technology to give

ALL clientele the ability and joy of independently buying wine.

Regardless, Chapoutier got the idea to develop a label where glue is placed underneath to raise the symbols so anyone who needs to use braille can identify his wines. Realizing that this might be a common problem and ever the generous soul, Chapoutier chose not to patent this technology. He felt, then and still believes today, that all wineries should have the option to use this technology and give their vision impaired clientele the ability and joy of independently buying wine. So since 1996, every bottle of Chapoutier whether it is from the Côtes-du-Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence or even Australia has the appellation, name of the wine, vintage and whether it is red or white, all written in braille.


To Learn More about Programs and Services for the Visually Impaired and how you can make a difference, check out the CNIB website.