The worst wine labels – a contest – let the voting begin!

Thank you for your submissions in the worst wine label contest! Here we have it: the finalists!

I recruited two judges to help whittle down the field to five labels and they are now available for your voting after the jump. But first, the judges: Steve De Long, known to many for his fine aesthetic work on the various products at De Long Wine Company; and Guillaume Jourdan, a partner at Vitabella, a PR and marketing firm in Paris who has consulted wineries on improving their labels. Since he’s foreign, I guess he’ll be our Simon Cowell. To the voting!

cleavageCleavage Creek,
Josh sent this one in, saying, “I know Marilyn Merlot. Marilyn Merlot is a friend of mine. You, madam, are no Marilyn Merlot!”
Tyler: “Is that a flag pin?”
Steve: “Some things are so bad that they’re good but cleavage creek can’t make that transcendent spin. It’s embarrassingly bad. However it may be good for pranks like sending bottles through the mail to friends. A little like sending mail in envelopes marked “The Pornography You Ordered.”
Guillaume: “On the positive side, you immediately understand that this wine comes from America.”

black cat rieslingZeller Schwarze Katz
Mark sent this one in saying, “Zeller Schwarze Katz is a bad Mosel wine. (Zeller = from Zell, the town of Zell an der Mosel) It’s right up there with Liebfraumilch.” (Click photo to enlarge)
Tyler: “It made me laugh, it made me cry–but mostly cry.”
Steve: “Ding ding ding – we have a winner. Truly terrible. Is that Riesling Rose or a pink bottle?! And what about the white bottle? And the spelling, the spelling!”
Guillaume: “If I have to buy it, it would be for a friend collecting every kind of “cat shaped things” or for putting flowers in it if I suddenly broke my last “vase” before my guests arrive.”

prisoner wineThe Prisoner, Orin Swift
Nancy sent this one in saying “It’s ugly, depressing, pretentious, and vulgar.” It sparked a heated discussion.
Steve: “In Europe, we’ve had a lot of coverage of the Austrian dungeon nightmare story recently so the prisoner theme resonates. Regardless of the talent of the artist, pain and suffering isn’t exactly a great way to start a party.”
Guillaume: “Does this mean that it is your last wine before going to jail or the last before you die? Painful is the adjective coming to my mind when looking at this label. Is it painful to drink this wine?”
Tyler: [Shudder]

Honorable mention:
Horse’s Ass, Herding Cats, Messina Hof “Tex Zin,” President Jacques Chirac Champagne (his favorite beverage is Corona!)
horses assherding cats small
tex zinchirac wine

poll now closed

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28 Responses to “The worst wine labels – a contest – let the voting begin!”

  1. Cleavage CReek, but only because she’s just not attractive. There’s much better cleavage out there to display.

  2. horse ass without a doubt

  3. Ron,

    Fortunately for you, they have more than one label to choose from:

    Cheers, Boyce

  4. The Prisoner is a Goya print…strange to see it juxtaposed against Cleavage Creek. Sort of reminds me of that whole Mapplethorpe scandal years ago in Cincinnati, where the difference between art and pornography was hotly debated. Here we have a debate between wine labels and art, or wine labels and pornography, or pornography and wine labels, or…errr, I’m confused.

    Anyhow, suffice it to say I don’t think The Prisoner belongs here for all sorts of reasons.

    I personally would have voted for Herding Cats had in been in the top three.

  5. What’s the story behind this cleavage creek is it owned by an ex/current porn producer or just some creepy old man who needs an excuse to take pictures of scantly clad women?

  6. Not “Texas Zin,” but “Tex zin”, which sounds similar to “Texan.”

  7. I voted for the Prisoner. Not that the other two labels are incredibly inane but the Prisoner is trying to be serious. The cleavage one has got to be in jest and that second label was probably done by a retard so they have an excuse. But the Prisoner label is intentional.

  8. I felt an immediate, visceral hatred for the Zeller Schwarze Katz. These look like some kind of hideous spin on Mrs. Butterworth syrup bottles, and nothing makes me thirsty like a nice tall glass of cheap syrup. Alternatively, they also resemble plastic knockoffs of dynastic Egyptian mummified cats – again, my mouth waters just thinking of four thousand year old cat carcasses.

  9. I seem to recall some label like Cleavage Creek being a fundraising effort for Breast Cancer research:

    Tacky label, no doubt, but would those 70% have voted for it if they know what the wine si about?

  10. When I see that Cleavage Creek bottle, it makes me want to assume that the wine makers – much like the skank they put on their label – can’t spell their own names…much less make passable wine.

  11. Well, ahem, the “joke” about Cleavage Creek, if such it might be termed, is on….well, someone else. The story is that the man who created Cleavage Creek, Budge Brown, did so because he lost his wife of many
    years to breast cancer in 2005. 10% of the gross proceeds of CC go to breast cancer research. The tricky part is that each label features a breast cancer survivor. Check it out.

  12. And while I personally find the label in poor taste, I guess I find holding it up for ridicule, when the thought behind it is so well intentioned, in even worse taste.

  13. While there certainly is no accounting for taste, and humor of any kind always runs the risk of offending someone, somewhere, let me clear the air a bit and clarify why I submitted the Cleavage Creek label.

    Before Budge Brown bought the winery in 05, the brand was owned by Jeff and Barbara Conners. They were home winemakers from Sonoma turned wine marketers and brand owners who hoped the bottles would become collectors items like the well-known Marilyn Merlot brand.

    Here’s a quote from Jeff on the label design:

    “We wanted a label that was eye-catching and would stand out. If you look at wine labels from 20 feet away, they all kind of blend together on the shelf.”

    The back label read in part (from W&V the article linked to below):

    “Cleavage Creek grapes are grown in the cleavage of some of the most beautiful California hills.” The wine is described as “full bodied yet vivacious” with “soft but firm fruit flavors that will seduce the palate.”

    While it’s true the Connors also donated 10% to breast cancer research, their models were much more scantily clad, and their motives arguably much less pure than Budge Brown’s, who has done a terrific (and authentic job) of rehabbing the brand.

    In short, Cleavage Creek under the Connors was a pure marketing play, with a payoff to a charity for PR cover. Thus, in my opinion, it’s fair game for the worst label contest.

    Here’s an article from 2004 Wines and Vine discussing the labels and their propriety.

    Hopefully you’ll conclude that my submission wasn’t malicious in intent (this is supposed to be fun!), and I certainly hope none of you blame Tyler (AKA Dr. Vino), who had no idea whatsoever about the behind the scenes machinations of the brand.

    Feel free to email me at with any comments or concerns.


  14. I should also note that the models the Connors used were not breast cancer survivors, and that includes the label we’re voting on in this contest.

    That wrinkle was added by Budge Brown after he bought CC in 05.

  15. Brushy Mountain Winery in North Carolina has a wine named Booger Swamp!

  16. I voted for the Cleavage Creek not because it was in poor taste, but because it was so badly photographed! I mean, geez, if you want cleavage on your bottle, fine, but at least light the photograph properly! That looks like a snapshot taken at a county fair! *shudder*

    And this is a bad “label” contest so the Zeller Cats should not even have been included, as they don’t even HAVE a label. I have a blue one in my collection and the Riesling wasn’t even that bad!

  17. What wine shop would even sell “Cleavage Creek”? Seriously, anyone know a wine store where I can get my hands around “Cleavage…Creek”?

  18. Chad:
    To answer your question:

  19. […] Critter labels On the heels of our worst wine label contest comes more advice, this time from Wines & Vines. One item: a label designer Down Under has a […]

  20. I met Jeff Conners who founded Cleavage Creek, when I was researching my book of winelabels (Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape). Jeff told me that the woman on their labels at that time (the label shown on above isn’t one of them) wasn’t a professional model butwas a friend of the Conners who’d had breast cancer.

    I seriously question whether the label shown is a real label. It looks like someone has cut and pasted a picture of a woman in a stars & stripe bikini over the original label. The curtain drapes in the background do not match with any of the other labels in the series — and I have the original of the 2000 vintage Secret Reserve — which was a Conners wine and it has a completely different picture* featuring the model who was used on all of his wines released at that time — see

    Before you go proclaiming this as a winner, I suggest you check its legitimacy. I reckon someone photoshopped his girlfriend onto the image.

    Tex Zin — I think the image you have was sourced from my website — that label* lasted just one vintage. It wasn’t the name that caused the label to be controversial, its the suggestive folds of the middle childs picture.

    *that label is in my book

  21. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the note. You may be right. I’m not fully convinced it’s a fake, but as you say we should ascertain if it is indeed genuine before crowning it a winner.

    Incidentally, I got the photo from a post by Tom Wark over at Fermentation where he commented on the sale of the brand. You’ll see the original Secret Reserve Label there as well (link below). Both have black curtains in the background, but the label I submitted has different coloring on the border (more gray than black) and lacks the full bleed picture style of the original.

    Certainly suspicious. The only way to find out for sure would be to contact the Connors I suppose. I’ll ask Tyler that it be pulled if and until I can get a definitive.

    Thanks again,


  22. […] begin! And please note, this is for names only; the aesthetes had their say recently with the worst label design. Permalink | SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “The most groan-inducing wine name”, url: […]

  23. […] had to do it) wine names. Vote now for the worst offender! And remember, this isn’t for the worst label design, just the name, hence no finalist labels are shown to distract us. Which is the most […]

  24. Check out the HINEY WINERY label. It has the Hiney Pickers on it. You can see it on

  25. I’d have to agree that The Prisoner does not belong in this “contest”. In a world of wineries trying to have an eye-catching label, Orin Swift’s Prisoner is mild in comparison to some of the downright garbage labels on the market. Cheap Date Wine Co, any bottle of Krover Nacktarsche (the labels reflect the translation of ‘bare ass’) the Astrology series, any Australian wine with an animal on the label (which is like 90%), any South African ‘goat label’ or Funky Llama are just a handful of labels that leave a lot to be desired.

    I voted for Tits McGee because it simply tries too hard. The Prisoner, on the other hand, is actually art.

  26. […] you pay attention to the look of your wine bottle? Are you less likely to buy gimmicky or ugly bottles? Do you think the label design plays a part in how you choose new wines? I would love love love to […]

  27. […] The Horse’s Ass (ingen förklaring nödig) – Och varför inte Champagne Jacques Chirac…Se etiketterna, och rösta, här.This post is also available in: Engelska wpa2a.script_load(); Related posts:Tre nya franska […]

  28. The label for The Prisoner is fantastic. I know wine is serious business, but I think you’ve gone WAY off the deep end.


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