We’re all searching for something: purpose, love, money, religion, justice, truth, beauty. At the core of it all is this idea that something must represent that search; perhaps something that provides an outstretched hand, an embrace, a satisfying beverage or a field of flowers. Whatever that “something” is, it provides us a connection.
Understanding our world through wine and our part in that world
The historically tragic, yet brilliant outcome of “critter” labels is that it polarized wine drinkers. Critter, or rather picture labels with that “animal” slant were fun; they made wine choices easy for those just looking for a good bottle on a Wednesday night without the worry of becoming overwhelmed or making a “bad” choice. In a world where we’re bombarded by numerous products daily, this choice needed to be seamless. And the same could be said for “wordy” wine labels; who wants to decipher those after a long day?
Perhaps the advent of the “critter” label was just the logical “next thing” in wine labeling. But there was an inherent problem: many of the wines associated were seen as inferior, the labels, subterfuge. And as these critter labels flooded the market, we soon figured out their purpose. So, what now? Maybe the answer lies within a palette of pink.
Evolution in Wine Thinking
The enigmatic part about rosé is its ever-changing landscape: a profusion of colors, complexity, grape varieties, production methods, bottle shapes and flavour profiles. Rosé is neither governed by any set of wine rules nor would it want to be anything other than what it is. Which, when you really think about it, is kind of cool, and dare I say, desirable, next-level thinking.
So then, what’s next for an evolution within the context of labels, and therefore connecting to a polarized group? Wine drinkers have at least a “working” relationship with rosé now, meaning only that we understand the “pink” liquid can be and mean many things depending on how, where, why and with whom we’re drinking. We’re having a good time with rosé.
According to Wines and Vines, it’s seen the strongest growth of any wine type at 48% and shipments totaling $48 million. And because there are inherently no particular rules within the world of rosé, there’s an even playing field for our polarized group. Now that’s exciting!
“Wine is kind of like going to a live show. Every performance is distinct, the audience enjoying it influences the experience, and every so often the band knows when they just created their next big hit. That’s why I keep coming back to wine.” Jaleh Najafali, Wine enthusiast / law student
Elizabeth Gabay MW and author of Rosé - Understanding the Pink Wine Revolution wrote: “...the real pink revolution is only just beginning.” I agree, and I think through rosé, there’s an infinite amount of learning and possibilities to be had! As wine lovers and well, human beings, we look to food and wine to nourish us, to connect us, to elevate us to something else. We want to feel good, even to make us look “cool” to our friends. What better way to find fulfillment than with another culturally-nourishing endeavour - art.
Design and Human Nature
I recently connected with oenographic: Graphic Design + Wine founder Jeff Gilligan whose Instagram account reads like only cool profiles could: “oenographic celebrate(s) the best of DESIGN + WINE.” And I thought, how forward-thinking is that!
Anyone can like art. Much like rosé, art can be and mean many things depending on where, why and with whom we’re enjoying it. There are no rules, no parameters, only a desire to experience, to feel, to connect with something that encourages us to look outside of ourselves while simultaneously looking in.
“Art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time. Research has shown art affects the fundamental sense of self. Art preserves what fact-based historical records cannot: how it felt to exist in a particular place at a particular time. Art in this sense is communication; it allows people from different cultures and different times to communicate with each other via images, sounds and stories. Art is often a vehicle for social change.” Reference.com
Much like artists, winemakers are creatives who see the potential in their grapes, in the soil, in the world around them, pushing winemaking boundaries every day, so what better way to showcase their bottled wine than with an artist’s label.
Kent Humphrey and his wife and business partner Colleen Teitgen, owners of Eric Kent Wine Cellars, know the value of wine and art. While Kent crafts their wines, Colleen, an artist and curator of their galleries, oversees their dream of combining their shared passions in wine and art. I asked them their goals for the artist labels and if they feel people are drawn to bottle art. “Definitely! You can’t help but choose a bottle on a shelf based on how it looks. I think we all do it.” Kent Humphrey
“Order wines and it's like having your personal art gallery at your table!! Zelda Sydney Illustrated Wine
“We are trying to expose our customers and the general public to lesser known artists and get them an audience for their work. There is a lot of stereotypical wine art out there and we want our labels to represent the artists, not wine country. Be different. Be true. Help artists. Get attention. Bring pleasure. Yes, we can say definitively that many people have discovered they love our wines after being drawn in by the art labels. They were happy to learn the wine was good too!” Colleen Teitgen
The couple “encourage(s) up-and-coming local artists by commissioning them to design the beautiful Eric Kent back labels, as well as by supporting Sonoma arts events.” Sommelier Journal
Eric Kent Wine Cellars, 2017 Rosé, Sonoma County, CA Artist Yellena James
Blogger Cathie Schafer, CSW writes: “I realized rosé is the ideal medium to connect us with its evolving landscape with an art-inspired label. It shows that we want something more than the alcohol in the bottle--it tells an even bigger story. I like to believe that the label creates an unspoken connection between the winemaker and the consumer.”
Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, NY has been in business since 1980, now growing 75 acres of sustainably farmed grapes. Since 2000, owner and art collector Michael Lynne, (April 1941 - March 2019) a trustee for New York's Museum of Modern Art, commissioned artwork for the wine labels from artists like Barbara Kruger and Eric Fischl.
Bedell Cellars 2017 Taste Rosé, Long Island, NY, Artist Barbara Kruger
Bedell Cellars is considered to be a benchmark for quality in the Eastern US, and winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich crafts his Long Island rosé with a unique blend every year, made by gently pressing whole clusters of sustainably grown estate fruit, before fermenting with indigenous yeasts.
The artwork that graces the rosé is by Barbara Kruger, an internationally renowned American conceptual artist. She created the image “Taste” exclusively for Bedell Cellars, suggesting the notion that taste can influence what we love, how we live, and who we think we are. Bedell Cellars
“Art opens everything up to such a bigger spectrum of people. And this is why I personally believe art is powerful, because art saved my life.” Artist David Tovey, Museum of Homelessness, Tate Exchange
Perhaps rosé is the connection for polarized wine drinkers after all.