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Feb 22, 2013 08:27 PM

For those wine label snobs ...

From the WSJ in an article titled, "Images for Wine in Down-to-Earth Designs":


Ms. Pate's ability to create memorable wine labels—including for Opus One, Harlan Estate, Mondavi and Domaine Chandon—has made her a sought-after consultant in the wine industry. Through the Napa Valley Reserve—a private club, complete with vineyard and storage facilities, which gives members the opportunity to make their own wine—she has designed labels for such celebrity members as the baseball player Mark McGwire and financial-planning personality Susan Lynn "Suze" Orman. She designs dozens of new wine labels a year.

Read it all here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001...

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  1. I'm not sure what snobbery has to do with anything here . . .

    In the 1980s and 1990s, Chuck House was THE "go to" designer for wine labels -- see http://www.icongroup.net/philosophy.php -- and now it (perhaps) is Susan Pate. Times change. New people come along. That said, Chuck House is still a very much sought after designer and it was he (IMHO) who revolutionized California wine labels, and he, too, has clients around the world . . .

    For a much more informative column (again, IMHO) check out this article from the February 2004 issue of F&W:


    1. Ipse, if you could please direct your wine marketing posts towards stopping wineries from contiuning the horrible practice of using wax capsules I'd greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

      15 Replies
      1. re: ellaystingray

        What's wrong with wax capsules?

        What You Will Need:
        •A bottle you want to open that has a wax capsule, of course!
        •A regular waiter's style corkscrew
        •A slightly damp cloth or paper towel

        How to Do It:
        1.Rather than trying to cut, chip or hack off the wax over the cork, simple dive right in as if there were no wax there at all! Stick the worm of your waiter's corkscrew right into the top center of the wax and push and turn it down into the cork beneath. A small amount of wax may break or flake off but thats ok. Turn the cork all the way down to the level you normally would before pulling out the cork.

        2.Next, begin to slowly and gently pull the cork out. But don't pull it all the way out yet! You may end up with bits in the wine and a bunch of wax dust and debris around the opening. Instead, stop when the cork is just partway out of the neck. The top part of the wax will crack and crumble somewhat as you do this.

        3.Flake off as much of the broken wax around the rim of the bottle as possible and then use the wet towel to wipe off any wax dust adhering to the cork and top of the bottle. You can also blow gently to get rid of any wax dust.

        4.If you wish you get more of the wax around the rim off, you can push the metal part of the corkscrew lever down against the rim as you slowly turn the corkscrew. This can help dislodge additional wax easily.

        5.Once the rim is cleaned off to your satisfaction you can proceed. Gently pull the cork the rest of the way out and remove from the bottle completely. You now have a nice clean rim free of wax but with the rest of the wax still intact so that the bottle is nice and pretty. Also, you've removed the wax bits and dust from the rim so that it doesn't end up in anyone's glass!

        Et voilà! Your wine bottle wax capsule conquered in a peaceful and elegant way!


        1. re: RicRios

          Hey Ric. I was being a little cheeky there. I don't really think very many people buy a wine becuase of the person who designed the label. Maybe some people do becuase they like the label itself. I suppose you could argue that some people buy Mouton simply becase of the artist but that is really parsing this out. Cue thread drift.

          So I was kind of joking about the wax capsules. I don't really care but I will tell you, it isn't getting them open, especially when you are at home; it's opening those buggers tableside at a white table cloth restaurant that can be rather annoying. The debris field can be large and there is always the question of doing it on the table (proper service, our coasters come no where near catching it all) or standing away from the table and having the stuff get all over the floor (just looks wierd as bits of plastic are flying all over the place that then need to be cleaned up) I do not have space for a service trolly but have actually taken to presenting the bottle, making the customer aware of the explosive nature of the closure and opening the bottle at a side station.

          The various versions of wax also have different properties, some of which don't really benefit from the heated towel trick--thinner wax application that is easy to drill right through and pull out the cork but the stuff shatters like safety glass. Then there are the kind that are thicker applications which come off in shards and if you aren't really careful trimming the lip, keeping drips off the table cloth is left to an act of faith, no matter how nimble your wrist. And some was applications crack and fall apart over time leaving me bottles I have to hand sell to people who know enough not to care and/or discount them as I can't really present a wine to a table with a damaged closure. This isn't a massive problem but it is frustrating.

          All this to say there just isn't a very elegant way to open them tableside, but no big whoop. I spent enough time on the winery side of things to know no packaging ever goes unscathed, especially from the trade. I actually like the way they look aesthetically, sometimes. And I try to remember that my opinion isn't the only one that matters. ;)

          1. re: ellaystingray

            I hate the wax capsules too. It gets everywhere, when all you want to do is open up and drink!!!!

            1. re: ellaystingray

              Maybe you were being a bit cheeky...but wax really can be a pain in the butt. I drink older Dunn Howell Mountain with the really thick red wax. Always a mess to open. The wax gets tougher with age. The corkscrew grinds the wax into a fine powder. I can't imagine opening them table side.

            2. re: RicRios

              For the wax, I just rub my hand on it for a few moments, then do, as you suggest, pulling the cork THROUGH the upper wax, that almost always shears off, right at the lip of the bottle.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Right! Works for me . . . (usually)

                1. re: zin1953


                  Though I handle a lot of those wax-capped bottles, just did a magnum of Benovia the other night, right out of the cellar. I rubbed all the way from the cellar, but it was uncommonly cold in AZ. Guess what? The wax shattered, but the cork still pulled through, but I had a mini-mess on my table.

                  Yes, "usually!"


            3. re: ellaystingray

              There is simply no reason to use wax and it is a pain in the ass. Ric - I always value your comments and opinions but c'mon, what reasonable purpose is served by putting wax on the top?

              1. re: ibstatguy

                Madame Lalou does (or at least, did) it, so it must serve a reason.

                1. re: ibstatguy

                  >>> what reasonable purpose is served by putting wax on the top? <<<

                  Serious question? Really? Can you say "aesthetics"? ;^)

                  Of course the big "upswing" in the use of wax -- at least among US wineries -- was when lead capsules were banned, and the "heat-shrink" alternatives then available were ugly.

                  What I've never figured out it why wineries don't use the same sort of "plasticized wax" that Maker's Mark uses . . . .

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Yes, THE wax can make a difference.


                  2. re: ibstatguy

                    It saves having to form a capsule over the lip and the cork.

                    Opened correctly ("usually"), it is zero problem, if one knows how to handle it. Do not go at it with a knife, or similar. Do not crack it. Rub your hand on the wax for a few moments, insert the worm of a waiter's friend, and just pull the cork through the top of the wax.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      for a moment I thought you were talking about...
                      Sorry, that's ok.

                      1. re: RicRios

                        c'mon Ric, we don't need that here ;-)

                        1. re: RicRios


                          Nah, it was ALL about the wax capsule, and nothing else...


                  3. While I do think the Harlan label, for example, looks nice; I will take a Ridge label over that any day. The front and back labels on any bottle of Ridge will tell you everything you need to know about the wine. But I am sure there are many wine "collectors" that would disagree and just prefer a pretty picture on their bottle.

                    1. Two thoughts:

                      1. If the label has the info I am used to, or need, the ancillary accoutrements are a plus. So I would like where it came from, when, and what type of grape it contains. A plus would be a nod to the finished product i.e. Eiswein vs Trockenbeerenauslese.

                      2, The actual collecting of the labels and the possible secondary sale of an investment. How many folks keep a wine/tasting diary that incorporates the label with notes on that page. And memories of place and time and attendees. This is over and above a cellar log. I am sure there are a number of wineries that have and do use local and international artists of note for their labels. But my consumption has normally been based on recommendation rather than visual impulse buying.

                      Is a wine label snob any different than a stamp collector?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                        >>>How many folks keep a wine/tasting diary that incorporates the label with notes on that page. And memories of place and time and attendees.<<<

                        I know quite a few people that do all of what you described but only include a picture of the label and do not remove and keep the label.

                        In my case, I keep a log of the details of the wine, who I drank it with, the occasion, how it went with the food, etc. but I do not save bottle labels. However, if someone wants to soak their bottles and try to successfully remove the label...more power to them.

                        1. re: Fowler

                          "However, if someone wants to soak their bottles and try to successfully remove the label..."

                          Plenty of label remover kits around, no soaking involved:


                          1. re: RicRios

                            I am well aware of the fact that label removal products exist. Since you brought up the product subject, in your experience how well do they work? Do you have a preferred brand to recommend?

                            1. re: Fowler

                              I only brought up the subject as "amicus curiae".
                              My relationship with wine leans heavily towards the porno sensual aspects, as opposed to the other (the philatelic?) side(s).