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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: Sine Qua Non
The controversy: Nun with a naked man at her feet
The story: Manfred Krankl not only makes the vino at his Sine Qua Non winery but also the label art. Krankl works with various media, including wood block, linoleum cuts, paint, and photography to create unconventional and often shocking labels for his wines, which are sold directly to customers on a mailing list. He often creates pairs of "companion wines," as he did in 2000 with "The Good Girl" and "The Hussy." After The Good Girl got booted by the TTB he renamed it, The Boot.
Approved or rejected? Approved

Images courtesy of respective brands.
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