The Grapes of Laugh: Wine label humor

Wine marketers have finally caught on to something that other industries figured out eons ago.
Shopping is not a rational activity but an emotional one. Consumers buy with their gut. Of course price still matters to wine shoppers, and they might scan the tasting notes if they’re right there on the shelf, but if they don’t like the label, they’re not going to buy the wine. It really is that simple.

The educated oenophile is still out there, but the average wine buyer isn’t impressed by Old World history, and a ‘good year’ probably has more to do with a team in the playoffs than varietals and vintages. Give him a chuckle with a funny label, and that’s something he knows will go over well with his friends. It’s a gag gift, a conversation-starter at a dinner party. He knows that the label won’t make the wine taste better, but it also can’t hurt.

Wineries use giggle-inducing labels to make their bottles ‘pop’ from the shelves, to grab a shopper’s attention and create a name that will be remembered. It’s also a bit of an inside joke for the winemakers, an irreverent jab at the old elitism, that makes wine seem modern and accessible. Most funny labels fall into one of these categories:

Cutesy Critters
In 2006, the market analytics firm AC Nielsen reported that for new wine brands, bottles with animals on the label sell at double the rate of those sans animaux. Since then, so many vintners have chased that success that the wine aisles bring a fairy tale’s worth of fanciful creatures. There’s Monkey Bay and Toad Hollow, Dancing Bull, 3 Blind Moose, Elephant on a Tightrope, and 47 Pound Rooster (there must be a doozy of a story behind that one).

Gimmicky
These are the light-hearted and playful names, often encompassing an insider’s joke; wines like Senile Farms, Jake’s Fault, White Lie, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Moral Compass, Screw Kappa Napa, and Big Tattoo Red.

Salacious and Scatalogical
If the critters represent fairy tales, this category comes from the adults-only section. Split between cheeky and crass, the not-so-subtle and the wholly adolescent, it’s full of labels like Well Hung, Kilt Lifter, Frog’s Piss (yes, it’s French), and enough ‘ass’ variants (Big Ass, Horse’s Ass, Stu Pedasso-try saying it fast) to fill a Cruvinet.

The Punsters
These wit-tinged labels do a lot of varietal tweaking along the lines of InZinerator, Seven Deadly Zins, Bored Doe, Goats do Roam, Cardinal Zin, Chard-No-Way (it’s a Chenin Blanc), and Bouteille Call.

Wine’s image has come a long way from Ch√Ęteau this or Domain that.
Not everyone is a fan of this turn, feeling that it cheapens the entire category, and that greater reverence should be shown. The reality is that there is room enough for all kinds of wines. Wine is a mature industry with broad, mass-market appeal, and variety and range come with the territory.

Wine for the Cheap offers reviews, discussion, and genuine appreciation for low-cost labels.

 

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Is it appropriate conversation for the dinner table? Then it should be fine.

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