If your main criterion for wine is, “does it have a cool label?” you’re not alone. In one survey, 2,000 wine drinkers were asked to select one bottle of wine from a set of three reds and one bottle from a set of three whites. A whopping 82 percent of them said they made their selections based on the label. And, although wine experts may look down on you for this, there’s nothing wrong with it.
“As they say, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover — and wineries that commit to a clever label of course have the potential to make great wine, too,” says sommelier Emily Wines, general manager of Skipstone winery. “There is also nothing wrong with having a conversation piece on the table.” Below, find her top picks for great labels bedecking actually good wines. Bring one of these to dinner and you’ll be sure to have not only the best label but also the best wine.
Moobuzz Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre
“This wine got its name because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau refused to let them call their wine ‘Milk and Honey,’ as it would be falsely advertising a different food product,” Wines explains. She recommends the red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. “It has the perfect mix of ripe, juicy fruit and savory herbs,” she says. “It is a really food-friendly wine — it makes everything you eat taste better!”
If You See Kay
If the name took you a few minutes, you’re not the only one, Wines says. Depicted on the label as a tattooed woman on a motorcycle, “Kay” represents the philosophy of “wide-open throttle or don’t bother doing it at all,” according to the company. But it’s not just a fun name and label. This Cabernet Sauvignon from the Puglia region of Italy is full of black fruits and some mocha.
Cherry Pie Pinot Noir
What you see is what you get with this California Pinot Noir. “The succulent pie on the front matches with the ripe cherry fruit in the wine,” Wines says. “There is also a hint of vanilla and baking spice in the wine, giving it even more of a pie-like character.”
Goats do Roam Red
“This South African blend of Grenache and Syrah is made in the same style as Cotes du Rhone in France — hence the pun,” Wines explains. It’s light and bright with a touch of spice and is “seriously delicious for the money!” she says.
Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel
After a few too many glasses of wine, we may have been known to put a plunger on our heads. And so has Eddie, the guy on this label. According to company legend, a bottle of wine with a caricature of an employee donning a plunger as a hat showed up on said employee’s desk one day. The character held a sign saying “Plungerhead.” And voila, a wine was born. Whether or not the story is true, this Zinfandel is super- luscious, Wines says. You’ll taste lots of blackberry and spice.
Chronic Cellars Spritz and Giggles
Wines likes all the labels from Chronic Wines, and this sparkling blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the North Coast of California is particularly good. “I have always found this to be a great value and loved to sell it when I was a sommelier,” says Wines, who describes it as fresh and toasty.
Bonny Doon Le Cigar Volant
“This wine is modeled after Chateauneuf-du-Pape in France, where there is an old law against ‘flying cigars’ —a.k.a. flying saucers — landing in the vineyards,” Wines explains. “The label shows one of these flying over an old countryside.” The wine is primarily Grenache with a little Syrah and Mourvèdre to add structure, and that adds up to dark fruits and soft tannins.
The name alone makes this a perfect bottle to pick up for a ladies’ night. “I have no idea how this label got approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, but they sold thousands of cases of it,” Wines says. “They change the blend a little every year, but it is typically a Grenache-based wine from Australia.”