We live in an age of labels: Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bottega Venezia, Lacoste and so beat on “ceaselessy against the tide”, ad nauseam. After just one sentence I am already feeling rather queasy.
Fortunately for sanity and humanity, not all labels are so bad. Put aspirational materialism (sic) aside and the wine world is full of the most glorious labels, visually beautiful and a testament to graphic talent, often more than a century old.
My opening gambit, Castello Ygay, has to be one of the most beautiful Belle Epoque visuals still in commercial use today. In a county somewhat awash, arguably, from the European mainstream in the late nineteenth centtury, Marques de Murrieta’s label is as beautiful as Antonio Guadi’s architecture. It seems to me dynamic and complex, replete with movement and energy.
Elsewhere, in Bordeaux, Latour’s patrician sobriety is as evocative as Lafite Rothschild’s label seems a call to a pastoral, bucholic idyl. Petrus‘ label is so singular and authoritarian it seems to reinforce its place as Pomerol’s most revered and sought after wine. Could such a wine be anything else when blessed by St Peter himself?
In Burgundy, Armand Rousseau‘s Chambertin and Clos de Beze labels admirably hark back to a medieval, monastic past on which those wines’ reputations are based. Domaine de la Romanée Conti’s mid-century typeface speaks boldy of both patrician authority and viticultural rigour. There is no superfluous decoration here, just the cold hard facts. Gravitas indeed and a sort of minimalist, almost puritan efficiency of which the French seem incapable today.
Even more modern wines from California, for example, express their “placeness” and particular cultural history. Screaming Eagle could be nothing else but American. On the other hand, the rather tame label of Opus One only underlines the dismal corporative soup into which this historic blend has fallen; Opus One is now just a brand.
There are of course many uninspiring, boring wine labels around, but it does seem that the greatest wines in the world have beautiful labels, labels that inspire you to drink but often remain just dreams.
Perhaps I really have become a wine geak, but beautiful bottles and labels leave me contented and reassured. Reassured that sometimes worshiping labels is not such a bad thing after all. I mean, how could you not want to drink this?