Wise & otherwise.
Labels as Food-Pairing Advisors. Why rack your brain about which wine to serve with dinner when you can let a wine label do the thinking? The new "Wine That Loves" brand offers no-brainer pairings by way of food-specific label graphics (the Wine That Loves Grilled Salmon label, for example, has a fish on it). But is it harmless fun for the wine-intimidated, or an insidious plot to keep the masses ignorant? In their simplicity, the labels fail to mention trivial details like grapes, appellation or vintage. OK, that stuff is pretty much meaningless to new wine drinkers, so it probably won't be missed. But how will they know what to buy next if they have no idea what was in that tasty bottle of Wine That Loves Squirrel Terrine? (Maybe they're not supposed to know--that way they'll have to drink the Squirrel-loving wine for the rest of their lives.)
Wine Packaging Stars in TV Ad. Wine ads on TV are a relative rarity (who can afford them?), but even more unusual are "hip" bag-in-box wine ads. The Wine Group dropped $4.5 million on its Fisheye Wines campaign--running on ABC prime-time through June--which uses computer animation and funky music to convince viewers that its 3L cask is a "better idea" than the wooden casks of old (see it at fisheyewines.com). ACNielsen recently reported that the premium bag-in-box wine category grew by 44% over the last year, so TWG is wise to grab some attention for its brand. For an even more radical spin on wine packaging, check out the story on page 32 about wine in kegs. That's right, kegs!
Zippy Sake Package. Continuing with the packaging theme (this is our annual Packaging Issue, after all), I discovered a refreshingly modern take on sake packaging last month at my neighborhood sushi bar. Zipang sparkling sake's 250ml bottle sports a silver shrink-sleeve label decorated with blue bubbles. Rather than a traditional screwcap, the bottle is sealed with a crown cap that has an attached pull-tab for easy opening. Sparkling wine producers looking for new ideas should check it out at gekkeikansake.com/product.cfm?start=7&type=import.
Baby Got Back (Label). Leave it to the deranged crew at Twisted Oak Winery, in California's Calaveras County, to turn the art of back label copywriting into an exercise in irreverence. These guys obviously have fun writing their back label text, and this year, they decided to let some lucky Twisted Oak fan have a crack at it. The challenge: to create label text for a white Rhone-style blend called %@#$!. (No, I'm not trying to clean up the language for publication--the name of the wine is that exact set of symbols.) After all the entries were evaluated, Brian Mulvehill was declared the winning wordsmith. His text begins, "Who the %@#$! do you think you are, picking up a Rhone-style wine not made in France?" (To read the rest, visit twistedoak.com.) For those who prefer a more traditional approach to back labels, see Jane Firstenfeld's story on page 42.