For thousands of years, wine vessels operated under the simple principle of form following function. Wine bottles (clay amphorae prior to the 18th century), were rarely marked. The notable exception to this rule was the ancient Egyptians as evidenced by the super detailed labels attached to wines found in King Tut’s tomb. It was not until 1798, with the technological breakthrough of lithography that wine labels could be mass produced and become the art form that we see today.
The term art form is not an exaggeration. Since 1946 Bordeaux 1st Growth Chateau Mouton Rothschild has selected a new famous artist each year to produce that vintage’s label. Famous examples include Andy Warhol, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. But you don’t need to drink wines of that caliber to get exposed to that caliber of label!
The name of this brand means sweet do nothing in Italian, evocative of the good life and relaxation. The iconic label is correspondingly indulgent, and has changed little since it was originally designed in 1979. The historic estate itself was originally established in the late 1880s, at the height of the art nouveau movement: The advertisements of Alfonse Mucha were all the rage, and no home was complete without a Tiffany lamp. The label features a rendering of the winery itself informed by both of these trends, creating something wholly new, chic and lovely to look at.
This producer from the North Fork of Long Island, NY established a tradition of fine art iconography in 2005, under the current proprietor, Michael Lynne. Award-winning artists such as Chuck Close, Barbara Kruger, Ross Bleckner and Eric Fischl have created both pieces for some of the world’s finest museums and galleries, and also designed labels for this producer. One of the most striking is Ms. Kruger’s black and white image of a woman’s face, mouth open expectantly, with the word taste nestled between parted lips. Gives us shivers just thinking about it.
If You See Kay
Naughty to say but fun to drink! Bad-boy, cult-wine producer Jayson Woodbridge, caused quite the stir in 2010 with the release of this Cabernet driven blend from Italy’s Lazio region. The label features an illustration of a tattooed woman riding a motorcycle, set over a purely psychedelic background. Although the insouciant name of the wine is a reference to James Joyce’s Ulysses, not all consumers got it. The state liquor board in New Hampshire refused to sell the bottle in it’s stores, a controversy which actually boosted sales.
Although we adore all of this McLaren Vale producer’s carefree, comic book inspired labels, these two are our favorites. Mollydooker is actually Aussie slang, for left-hander, as the husband and wife team behind this brand are both lefties. If that’s not adorable enough their names, Sarah and Sparky are alliterative. These two wines are an homage to their love – put the two together and they form a complete image. *sigh* ain’t love grand?
Writer Amy Ullman is the irrationally exuberant founder of Wine for Rookies. She received a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Harvard University in 2009 with concentrations in Economics and French. She holds the title of Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators, and is currently working on her Diploma of Wine and Spirits via the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.