You’re taking a break from emails, scrolling through social media, tapping “like” on stylized, aspirational wine and food photos. It’s a pleasant summer afternoon in Paris—not a bad place to be a freelance writer. Just before you drag yourself away and back to work, an image catches your eye. It’s something you’ve seen before—in the mirror.
That’s your face, sketched out in ink, adorning this boutique winemaker’s wares.
Label art is an important marketing tool for wine, and for many small producers, labels are an opportunity to express aspects of their personal lives, like their children’s artwork. It’s a well-known fact that many consumers—myself included—often choose wine based on its label.
I’ve looked at, admired, critiqued and explained the nuances of probably thousands of labels during my career in wine retail, education and journalism. But it had never occurred to me in the slightest that one day, I’d be on the other side of the equation, the one being analyzed.
I blinked a few times in disbelief. There I was, for the entire world to see, on the label of his sparkling wine, drawn from a photo he’d taken during the week we’d traveled in a group together.
Immediately, I sent a text message to the winemaker—let’s call him Andrew?—with a snapshot of the post.
“Ummm, this looks familiar?” I waited, watching the three little bubbles that indicated he was struggling to find a reply.
“I was going to tell you! Before you could see…”
How odd, to be immortalized. Not forever, as with a painting. Rather, these bottles would be grabbed up by people in Tokyo, London and Paris, who love this cult brand, and then they would be emptied among friends. Maybe that’s better than just being an object people gazed upon in a gallery? Wine, and wine labels, give people joy and memories.
It was some time before I tasted the blanc de noirs bearing my image. Andrew soon came through Europe for a sales trip, and he brought the wine that was my homage. He watched nervously as I brought the pink-tinged liquid to my lips. Fortunately, I found the wine to be quite beautiful. I also found Andrew compelling.
This year, Andrew won’t have to rely on a photo of me to design labels. I’ll be right beside him, helping to make the wine.