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i’ll take the one with the cute label

03/03/2011

I recently read a post from Most Wine Is Good, written by a humorous but self-proclaimed “darker” wine blogger named Jesse, from Minnesota. He claimed that, for the most part, creative wine labels are only there to distract from the fact that the wine it hides behind is not any good. Sometimes that may be true … but that doesn’t persuade me to steer clear of wines just because they have a cute label.

Granted, there ARE plenty of examples where a wine label is meant to be cute, to persuade the wine-ignorant into buying them (I’m looking at you, Red Bicyclette). They usually have a clever quip or story; but what people don’t often notice is the fact that, oftentimes, the wine is not specific to a region, vintage or grape varietal. Which means they end up being wine grab bags with fancy wrapping paper.

However, much like anything else in this world, there are exceptions. And the exceptions make the whole journey through the world of cute wine labels worth the trip.

Parsonage is a winery out of Carmel Valley, CA that I’ve written about quite a few times over the past year. Although their Chardonnay is not my favorite wine, their Snosrap Red Wine has always been one of my personal favorites for a quality red blend under $20 … and the label is essentially the same between the two. What I love about this label is that it’s creative, with a hint of a classy gimmick (using Cyrano as the judge for the wine, since … you know … he has a big nose!) that makes it fun as well.

Plungerhead Zinfandel was a quick $12 purchase from Cost Plus when I was bored one day and wanted to burn some cash in my wallet. Turns out this wine had been awarded 98 points, and with good reason. It’s one of the best lower-cost zinfandels I’ve ever tasted. And the label reminds me of a hipster Modest Mouse music video dream.

And who could forget the over-the-top love affair I had with Evolution, a non-vintage mixed white whose legs stretch all over the United States. A recipe for disaster … but was actually one of the best white wines I have ever put in between my lips. Another example of a cute label with a penchant for disaster turning into an amazing wine experience that I’d no sooner forget than my own name.

In the end, I don’t like the idea that a wine can’t be good just because the label is cute or stylish. Sometimes the wine label is sophisticated, adorable, sexy, gimmicky or clever because that quality is reflected in the wine. It’s best to not judge based on what the label looks like, on both sides. Don’t buy a label because it’s cute, and don’t AVOID a label because it’s cute either! Let the wine tell you its own story, no matter what the cover looks like.

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