Vino Under the Volcano: Etna Wines Erupt Expected Notions of Terroir

I expected something a little more dramatic: the sizzle of a lava river oozing down the volcano, the rumble of the earth as it split between my feet, the screams of villagers running for their lives. Instead, all I hear are the clicks of tourist cameras as we look up at Mount Etna, its white tip puffing peacefully against the blue sky. “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all,” Goethe wrote. “For Sicily is the clue to everything.” That’s why I’m here on this island of dazzling sunshine and menacing shadows, […]

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Label Gazing: How to Read a Wine Label

Admit it. You’ve probably bought a wine based on nothing more than a beautiful label. Most of us have been lured at least once by a wind-swept name like Jagged Peak scripted across a postage-size painting of a rustic hillside. Drink the wine, live the life. Not quite. After several disappointments, I started looking for austere labels as a sign of purity: since the winemakers had obviously spent no money on marketing, I reasoned, they must have invested in the fruit. But that didn’t work either: I ended up drinking bad wine in ugly bottles with unpronounceable names. Eventually, I […]

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Can You Judge a Wine by its Label?

Continued from Part 1 of Reading Wine Labels It’s 5 p.m. on Friday—the dinner party is in two hours and you’re standing in the middle of the liquor store. In front of you are thousands of bottles of wine. Should you consider only wines over $15 so your host won’t think you’re cheap? Do you grab the bottle with the small furry animals on the label or will the guests think you live inside a Disney movie? Should you go for the wine with the cheeky name for a laugh or might someone be offended? If you’re not a wine […]

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Reserve Wine Labels and Other Extra Special Meaningless Terms

Continued from Part 2 of Reading Wine Labels There’s nothing like having to buy wine at the last minute to take to a friend’s house to cause a panic attack. No other consumable is put on the table in its original package. At social gatherings, the wine label is like a blinking billboard telling your guests exactly what you think of them and of yourself. So that piece of paper affixed to the front of the bottle is all you have to go on. In the quaint old days, merchants simply wrote on the label what was in the bottle. […]

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Message on a Bottle: Art on Wine Labels

Most people wouldn’t dream of stacking their art collection in a damp, dark basement. But wine lovers aren’t like most people—and their art isn’t like most art: it’s Post-It-Note-sized and glued to bottles. Wineries today are not only perfecting the art of making wine, but also the art on the wine: they’re creating works of miniature art on bottle labels, sometimes painted by famous artists. This Novello label above (and at the series at the very top) was created by Toronto designer Daryl Woods of Public Image Design. The marriage of wine and art is as old as Egyptian tomb […]

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Can You Judge a Wine by its Label? It’s an Art

Continued from Part 1 of Wine Label Art In an ocean of wine, the label is the siren song that says, “Take me home with you.” For many of us, buying wine is an exercise in shallowness: we think pretty pictures must mean good wine. We find fluffy creatures endearing. We believe the winery actually used those glistening grapes. We long to share that pastoral landscape or partake of château life. Like most marketing, wine labels are intensely aspirational. (That’s probably why we have yet to see one featuring someone passed out on the floor.) But it wasn’t always so. […]

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Are Wine Labels by Famous Painters a Work of Art?

Continued from Part 3 of Wine Label Art And while it may not be ironic that you can buy the print of the label more easily than you can the wine itself, it certainly is a paraducks. Perhaps Kenwood Vineyards, of Sonoma, California, wished it had gone with an inoffensive iguana for the 1975 label. Over the years, Kenwood (dubbed the “Mouton of America”) has commissioned more than thirty artists to produce label images, including Pablo Picasso, Henry Miller, Sam Francis, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Wayne Thiebaud and Jim Dine. But the very first label it proposed for its Artist […]

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