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 images of wine vessels, as rich as a Dutch still life of grapes on a table, as spiritual as the illuminated texts of Cistercian monks and as serene as a watercolor landscape of vineyard rows under a Tuscan sun.
And the association is even deeper for the artists themselves. As the great Italian surrealist painter Modigliani pointed out, wine is a vice for the middle classes, but for artists, it is necessary.”
Artists through the ages have fuelled their inspiration with wine. Picasso painted grapes as a symbol of sensuality; and off-canvas, he was a serious fan of the fermented kind. His love of wine is believed to have been one of the secrets of his longevity and productivity: he painted well into his nineties.
For lovers of both art and wine, the latter has an “elemental energy,” as illustrator Ralph Steadman once noted. Both can move our souls by appealing to our senses.
Both can be described by words such as vibrant, curvaceous, harmonious, silky and seductive. And both lubricate thought and passion.
More practically, though, those pretty pictures on wine labels have a commercial purpose: they help to sell the bottle.
Unlike most other products, you can’t sample wine before you buy it—at least not legally. You can try on a dress or read the first chapter of a book; but there’s no knowing how a new wine will taste. And the fact is, most people don’t read wine reviews (a shattering revelation for a wine writer).
According to a recent study, some seventy per cent of people walk into the liquor store without a particular brand in mind.
“We don’t have a particularly wine-savvy culture in North America,” says Randall Grahm, owner of California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard. “So a lot of people buy wine based on the label.”
Some have adopted the “three-foot rule” used by makers of cereal and detergent: a consumer has to notice the bottle when standing at least three feet away. In an ocean of wine, the label is the siren song that says …
Read Part 2 of Wine Label Art