the art and design of contemporary wine labels

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tis the season of new wine books, and many have crossed my path in the past couple of months. Here’s one that I believe has immense appeal outside the ranks of the wine-obsessed, yet will wrangle their attention also. It’s titled “The Art and Design of Contemporary Wine Labels,” written by Tanya Scholes, a resident of Toronto with an advertising and graphic design background. The publisher is Santa Monica Press. (The book lists for $45 but Amazon has it in stock and priced just under $30.)

I have always been an avid reader of wine labels, and I feel as though I have an intuitive grasp of what works and what does not as far as label design – perhaps because there are so many more bad examples than good ones. Ms. Scholes has written a brief but captivating introduction to her book which explores the history of wine labels, and Michael Mondavi precedes it with a heartfelt foreward.

But there is no doubt that the heart and soul of this book is expressed in the dazzling display of label art, many familiar to me, but quite a few that I’d never seen. They are drawn from around the world, with a particular emphasis on California, but excellent representations also from the Pacific Northwest, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and France. All are in full color and printed full size. Simply leafing through the pages of the book is an absolute delight.

Were that all the book offered it would still be worth owning, but it also includes extremely well written, anecdotal, and original snippets of text that delve into the personalities behind the labels. I took a good close look at some of the Washington entries – three wines from Charles Smith, along with entries for Sleight of Hand, Spring Valley and Owen Roe – and found that, instead of the usual palaver that can be found in dozens of other books, Scholes has really done her research and pulled out some great stories. The historical background behind David O’Reilly’s “Sinister Hand” is one fine example.

This is that rare wine book that transcends the limitations of the category. A coffee table book without a single vineyard photo, a nicely-researched collection of winery profiles that does not mention barrel regimens or yeasts, a book that can’t help but capture the attention of anyone with an eye for artful communications and graphic design, whether or not they are wine lovers.

It’s a book I wish I had written myself. No author can offer higher praise.


Anonymous said...

it sounds
let's have a taste
oh that's not glue
i'm sure they used paste
how do you get this thing off of here
without a rip
i don't give one now
let's just have a beer
leave a tip
a tip...
not yet
the music's startin'
let's dance

ONX Wine said...

Looks like a good buy as we are looking at what our next label will be.

Coriander Girl said...

Thanks for this review. I am so completely excited about this book and will most definitely make it one of my Christmas purchases. My dad is a wine lover and I know this is a book he'll love. I want one for myself also.

Don Phelps said...

Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards is pleased and proud to be included in this publication!!

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