Wine. It’s the drink that needs no introduction, because it’s almost as old as humanity itself. It’s the official beverage of the Bacchanalian revery, the high church ritual, and your aunt Loretta. But when we talk about wine—whoa, what the heck are we talking about? Legs and noses, length and weight, foxy notes and round textures and lively finishes. I have no idea what any of that stuff means, because I understand things visually. Can wine sellers convey—through the art and design of their labels—what their wines are all about so that us visual people can know whether a bottle of wine is for us?
Here are the 10 types of wine labels I have identified, and what they seem to be communicating.
Name: The Original
What it says: We’re so freaking old we invented wine. Or, at least our royal ancestors invented it, when they weren’t busy riding chariots or conquering cities or writing epic literature.
Who it’s for: Yacht owners
Name: The Safe Choice
What it says: Not sure if this is a bottle of wine? Look, there’s a vineyard right there on the label! Not sure if it’s a quality wine? The fact that it’s a hand-drawn engraving should lead you to believe, by association, that our wine is created with the same level of care and craftsmanship. How can you go wrong?
Who it’s for: People who choose the chicken option on the menu
Name: The Louis Vuitton
What it says: We have an unmistakable sense of style, as exemplified by this capital letter with it’s iconic swooshes! So striking and memorable! We love attention!
Who it’s for: People who arrive noticeably late and then leave obnoxiously early for something else
Name: White and Proud
What it says: We’re purists about wine. Check that: snobs. And we don’t need art or any other gimmicks to tell us what it’s all about.
Who it’s for: Anyone who can describe a flavor in wine besides “wine.”
Name: The Rainbow Coalition
What it says: Why does wine always have to look so austere and sophisticated? Why do people have to be so mean and judgmental? Why can’t people just look on the bright side of things? Why is it bad to be sitting at home night after night drinking wine by yourself?
Who it’s for: Kitten-cam operators
Name: The Rebel
What it says: Why play by the rules, bro? We’re not like those soulless corporate robots. Come hang with us in our parents’ basement!
Who it’s for: People who would rather be drinking beer
Name: The Herman Miller
What it says: It’s 2014. We think beauty can be useful and functional and not just ornamental. We don’t think of you as a customer, but as an end user. We love Helvetica.
Who it’s for: People who shop for wine at the MoMA Design Store
Name: The Danielle Steel
What it says: Art is weird and hard to interpret. It’s better if we spell everything out for you in words. Plus, everything is better when it’s in the form of a story, right?
Who it’s for: People who have the time to actually read wine labels at a liquor store
Name: The Dark Arts
What it says: This wine was invented by witches, distilled on the fires of Mt. Doom, and transported here in Darth Vader’s personal ship. It might put you under a spell, if you know what we mean.
Who it’s for: Graduates of Hogwarts
Name: The OMG Check This Out
What it says: It could be turpentine in here, but you don’t care—you just want to show that you’re current with your cultural references!
Who it’s for: People researching wine labels for frivolous humor pieces