As many a drinker has said, “It started with the bottle.”
In my case, as a person attracted to both words and graphics, the unknown wine bottle reached out and grabbed me. It was a surface attraction. I didn’t know the wine, but I didn’t need to know the its inner-beauty. The packaging was enough: The title, “Once Upon a Vine,” grabbed me with its wordplay; the Art Deco graphic of the child running though the forest underscored the storybook title. I didn’t need to drink the wine, but I did need the bottle.
Thinking that the bottle would make a nice paperweight, I bought the wine. And then I flashed on our youngest daughter’s experience who, after graduating from the Denver Art Institute, took an internship at a corporate gift basket supplier in Seattle. Sarah’s job was to design eye-catching labels so that the wine (bedded attractively in high-quality excelsior and surrounded by high-end chocolate, cheese, fruit and nuts) would dazzle the eye of the recipient.
Who knows where the wine came from? Quite possibly it came from California by rail tanker car. Packaging… it’s all about packaging.
And thus, I hatched the idea of a wine tasting party. Yes, we would taste the wine, but the wine selections would be based solely on the basis of the label. The rules were strict. Invitees were to have neither tasted the wine nor read reviews of the wine prior to the party. It would be a blind tasting and participants would keep score. Assuming that some of the wines would be a bit rough ‘n ready, the scoring was rough ‘n ready too.
Tasters would check one of three choices: “nice,” “just OK,” and “buyer suckered by the label.” If you look at the scorecard on the left, only one wine was so bad that the buyer was judged to have been bamboozled by the marketing department. In contrast, the person who scored the card to the right judged only wine #15 as OK and all other wines failed. In the margin, #6 earned not only a check mark but also an “awful.”
After the wines were rated, we dropped the sleeves. The wines might have fallen short of the mark, but the labels were wonderful. As were the labels on the back of the bottles. No label urged us to up-our-game by noting the subtle hints of ripe passion fruit and gooseberries accented with crisp zest of fresh sweet limes. Oh no. As I said, the competition was to focus on the labels. The labels on the backs of the bottles were as much fun as those on the front. The back of Vicious Zin, for example, read: “Hey, don’t let looks or price fool you! There’s a lot of heart and flavor in this little scrapper; a powerful bite of fruit, flavor and spice that will make the higher priced Zinfandels cower.”
“Foreplay Chardonnay,” “7 Deadly Zins,” “Woop Woop” “Hunky Dory,” “Plunger Head,” “Love Drunk,” and “Insatiable” all scored well in the label competition. And yes, some wines scored well too, but truth be told, I got carried away by the frivolity and misplaced the rankings of the wine.
I could taste them all again, but I think not. Labels abound. Maybe there is a wine just waiting to be discovered.
As for my bottle of “Once Upon a Vine,” I gave it as a prize to the winner of the best label. I’ll just have to buy another bottle. It will make a perfect paperweight.