Archive for the 'wine labels' Category

How much is too much for wine labels?

racy_wine_labelWhy have the federal authorities rejected a wine label with a nude photo yet waived through several with nude art? Why is swearing and double entendre allowed while someone driving a car is not? And what about guns?

I explore the vicissitudes of wine labels that push the boundaries of acceptable in a post over on Check it out for a look at some racy labels, including some rejected labels that have never been seen by a broad audience before.

If you were the all-powerful regulator of wine, what would be your litmus test for allowable art on wine labels?

“Wine labels gone wild” []

Nude art labels from Jolie-Laide get approval


Jolie-Laide, a micro-wine label by Scott Schultz, has attracted out-sized attention for what’s in the bottles: Trousseau Gris, Pinot Gris, and Syrah, all from single-vineyards in California. But with the current vintage, the outside of the bottles have also been turning heads since the labels depict nude line drawings.

Schultz says he varies the labels of the Jolie-Laide (translated as “pretty-ugly”) wines every year. Last year, a calligrapher designed the labels. This year, it is tattoo artist Kapten Hanna who sketched the art for the 280-case production.

John Trinidad posted the above picture to Instagram with the comment, “This wine label is HAWT! And the wine is gorgeous, too.”

Schultz, a former sommelier who currently works at Wind Gap wines, said “We were hoping because it’s just black and grey sketch art, it would remove the sexuality and evoke more a simplistic, old-school approach to the wines.”

Apparently the TTB thought the labels were HAWT too–but not too HAWT to handle. The Pinot Gris (left above) and the syrah (not pictured) passed in the first go-round but the Trousseau Gris needed a second review before getting the green light on July 15. Interestingly, small wines can apply to the TTB for a “certificate of exemption from label approval” and sell their wines only in-state, bypassing the need for federal approval. But with the TTB’s stamp of approval, these wines can now be sold in markets such as New York City, where Shultz says the wines have some fans already.

What do you think — if you were an administrator, would you give these labels a thumbs up? Or, as a consumer, does it pique your interest in the wine?

The future of wine labels? Nutrition facts

Moscato–or mosc-HOT-oh–is barely wine. In fact, the one above has a nutritional analysis as foods do–the first time I’ve seen that on wine. According to a representative at the importer, Boisset America, because this wine is less than 7% alcohol, it falls under FDA regulation rather than the TTB and thus had to place the “nutrition facts” on the back label.

This type of labeling may become the norm for all wines. What do you think? Have your say in the latest poll. And thanks to the young man about town, @corkhoarder, for supplying the picture.

Should wine labels have nutritional analysis?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Related: Counting wine’s calories
Bonny Doon’s labels bare all

Are you for Champagne disgorgement dates? We are!

When you’re shopping for bubbly between now until New Year’s Eve, how will you know how long that nonvintage bottle has been on the shelf? If there were a disgorgement date on the label, you would have a better clue.

Over the weekend, Jancis Robinson tasted two Krug Grande Cuvée wines and commented on Twitter how different they were. Antonio Galloni of Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate replied to her that the WA has not reviewed Champagne without a disgorgement date since 2009. (See exchange below.) Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle wondered how many writers it might take to adopt the same policy to force the producers’ hand in the region. It’s a stick approach.

Here’s a carrot for the producers: disgorgement dates will engage the most interested consumers. These are the ones that should be of particular interest to producers since they would look up further information on the producer web site and alert their world to their experience (good or bad) via social media.

Disgorgement dates are important. After the jump, check out Champagne writer Peter Liem, who is pro-disgorgement labeling, giving his reasons why they are important. I’m in favor of Champagne producers putting some sort of legible, comprehensible form of disgorgement dates on the (back) label. If you are too, hit the comments! Read more…

Calera’s informative back label

Calera’s back label passes the usefulness test!

Schmaltzy story, cheesy adjectives, mentions of “handcrafted“: none.

Vineyard data and winemaking info: bountiful.

What with Ridge Vineyards, Bonny Doon, and Calera putting lots of info on their labels, there must be something in the air of the Santa Cruz and Gavilan Mountains.

The G Spot, The Titanic, Verdehlgold – punny French labels!

All too often, French labels are stuffy. However, when it comes to good vin de table wines, puns and word play abound. Consider these from the Loire:

This is a tasty yet tannic (thanks six-month maceration!) gamay from Emile Heredia of Domaine de Montrieux in the Coteaux du Vendômois. It’s labeled simply “G.” With a spot over it. He told me, “The anglais say it doesn’t exist–but they haven’t looked for it!” Read more…

Wine, alcohol, and tax – in Wine & Spirits magazine

How often is the alcohol level stated on the label consistent with what is actually in the bottle?

Wines are allowed a certain fudge factor between what appears on the label and what is actually in the bottle. For wines under 14%, the wine can fluctuate by 1.5 percentage points, which explains why so many wines have traditionally been labeled 12.5% since that gave the maximum flexibility. Above 14%, the producer must pay a higher tax ($1.57 per gallon as opposed to $1.07 for the lower level) and the allowable wiggle room shrinks to one percentage point deviation from what’s stated on the label.

I was curious how often consumers get what they think they are getting. To gain some idea, I oversaw the analysis of a random sampling of 80 wines from the offices of Wine & Spirits magazine, half foreign and half domestic wines. Although we treat the findings as anecdotal, it was interesting to note that half the wines we sampled were almost spot on the stated level, deviating only 0.3 percentage points from the stated level. However, a full ten percent of the wines tested were in the wrong tax bracket, that is to say, they were steering the consumer quite wrong as well as costing the Treasury revenue.

There’s also a perception that wines north of 14% have become more prevalent. In order to determine the extent of this, I examined reports from the Treasury’s TTB unit, which regulates the alcohol industry. Their data showed that wines over 14% alcohol comprised six percent of the still, bottled wines in America in 1995. By 2009, these higher alcohol wines had risen by 50% to account for nine percent of still, bottled wines.

The TTB is in the first year of a market compliance study, examining wines randomly sampled from the retail shelves around the country. The results of this study will be available next year. The TTB currently has 14 investigators nationally involved in enforcement and inspection; There are over 6,500 wineries now in the United States.

Be sure to check out the current issue of Wine & Spirits for my full story. The issue is entirely dedicated to “the buzz around alcohol” and has articles by David Schildknecht, Jamie Goode, Fiona Morrison and others.

UPDATE: The article is now available on the Wine & Spirits site. Read more…

Before the courts: Cristal ($299) defeats Cristalino ($5.99)

Last week, a judge ruled in favor of Cristal champagne over the cava Cristalino. And it wasn’t a taste test.

The makers of the two wines have been sparring in court for the past four years. In the latest round, according to, U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen has barred the makers of Cristalino from “using any mark, word, or name similar to the Cristalino name that is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception with Roederer’s Cristal marks.” She also ordered them to change the brand’s name, lose the colors, and change the font on the label.

It would be interesting to hear the legal arguments for both sides. But on the face of it, do you think the makers of the $5.99 cava had constructed their product to free ride on the association with the $300 Cristal?

J. García Carrión, the maker of Cristalino, produces and markets fruit juices and wines in Spain. Champagne Louis Roederer has several wine properties outside of Champagne including Domaine Ott in Provence, Chateau Pichon-Lalande in Bordeaux, and Roederer Estate in California.


Wine Maps

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

See my op-eds in the NYT
"Drink Outside the Box"
"Red, White, and Green"


Monthly Archives


Blog posts via email



Wine industry jobs


One of the “fresh voices taking wine journalism in new and important directions.” -World of Fine Wine

“His reporting over the past six months has had seismic consequences, which is a hell of an accomplishment for a blog.”

"News of such activities, reported last month on a wine blog called Dr. Vino, have captivated wine enthusiasts and triggered a fierce online debate…" The Wall Street Journal

"...well-written, well-researched, calm and, dare we use the word, sober." -Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher, WSJ

jbf07James Beard Foundation awards

Saveur, best drinks blog, finalist 2012.

Winner, Best Wine Blog

One of the "seven best wine blogs." Food & Wine,

One of the three best wine blogs, Fast Company

See more media...


Wine books on Amazon: