With the thousands of bottles competing for consumer attention on wine shop shelves these days, it’s no surprise that many winemakers have turned to clever labels to set their wines apart from the masses. Who hasn’t picked up a wine solely based on a catchy label? And once it’s in-hand, chances are much better that you’ll make the purchase.

Sure, there are some wines that are all pretty packaging with nothing inside to back it up, but there are plenty of high quality winemakers that put as much effort into their label as their juice.

Take, for example, California winemaker Bonny Doon, which known as much for its highly creative and often irreverent labels as its great quality wine. Probably best known are the Cardinal Zin and Syrah labels bearing illustrations by cartoonist Ralph Steadman, famous for his collaborations with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

On the more classic end, Kenwood produces Artist Series, a select Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that they say seeks to combine fine art with fine wine. Similarly, Chateau Ste. Michelle out of Washington state’s Columbia Valley also produces an Artist Series, in this case a Meritage. Like Kenwood, each vintage bears a label emblazoned with the work of a contemporary artist; the current 2002 release features the work of sculptor Gerard Tsutakawa.

Americans aren’t the only ones using artistic labels to draw focus to their wines. The ever-changing but always colorful image on Georges Duboeuf’s annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau is as much a part of the marketing as the wine itself. Many of these wines become highly sought after collectors items. Considering that many of these artists’ works sell for thousands of dollars, a bottle of wine costing less than $50 is a steal.

Some of the wines mentioned above, as well as many others, will be the focus of our May 24 Wine Down Wednesday at, appropriately, the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

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