Wine Labels Gone Wild

A slideshow of bottle art that pushed the envelope of taste—and the law.

Last month, federal authorities approved the use of nudity on a trio of wine labels from Jolie-Laide, a micro-producer in Sonoma, which won approval for three line drawings by tattoo artist Kapten Hanna. It was a watershed moment, one that will help winemakers—and the Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)—decide how far is too far when it comes to provocative new bottles.

As for now, it's still a gray area. Officially speaking, the government prohibits anything "obscene or indecent." But in the absence of written standards for what that really means, the evaluation falls to individual agents who review more than 150,000 wine and alcohol labels each year. This calls to mind the old-fashioned and arbitrary "I know it when I see it" method, which Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart invoked when confronting pornography in 1964 (Jacobellis v. Ohio).

Here are 12 labels that push the federal limits of obscenity and indecency—and whether the art was ultimately approved or rejected.

The wine: G Spot
The controversy: Abstract reference to the "g spot"
The story: While French wines have a reputation for stuffiness, some make fine use of the double entendre. In fact, wines with these textual tricks may sail through the approval process more easily than questionable imagery. Emile Heredia of Domaine de Montrieux, for example, tends some very old vines in the central Loire and labeled this gamay with a large "G" on the label directly below a "spot." Get it? He leaned over and told me while pouring me a taste, "The anglais say it doesn't exist—but they haven't looked for it!"
Approved or rejected? Approved

Images courtesy of respective brands.
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