Wine Labels that got into trouble (Part 1 & 2)

Posted on May 03, 2017

Wine labels that got into trouble... (Part One)

Let’s be honest... we all sort of admired the naughty kid in the classroom back in the old school days didn’t we? If it wasn’t for his mind-blowing creative ideas of entry-level mischief, or his brave attempts at striking items off the “forbidden list”, it was for the spectacular way in which he accepted his punishment with pride and broad-shouldered victory! “Did it and got noticed!” – almost akin to winning an award! Well, if we had to compare this kind of behaviour to some of the risky wine labels that have made an appearance over the years, it turns out there have been quite a few little delinquent labels – some who got into quite a lot of trouble too...

Some of the obvious reasons why a wine label may be assumned inappropriate, criticized – or even banned would boil down to the actual images and text displayed on the label.  The regular culprits come to mind here and that would include language, blasphemy, nudity, racism, sexism, (although classism we think may just need to stay in this school) and other minor factors that tend to cause a little controversy.

Nudity and erotic content can be broadly debated – especially since some countries tend get away with being far more “liberal” than others...  Have a look at this, a few years ago, in the 1970’s, a label by Clos Du Val (Napa Valley) was banned in Oregon because of the topless image of “the Three Graces” on the top of the label. I must mention that they’re only an outline sketch image and hardly a photo, but banned?  In our opinion naked Greek Gods and ladies have always been... naked – and thus are pretty common place when it comes to classical Greek statues not so?  You can waltz around hundreds of these statues around the world – with kids in tow - and that’s not offensive. Have a look at the label – can that seriously be so bad?


Not at all. But then we came across a few slightly more risky designs along the curious path of naughty wine label research...

Chevalier Brigand is a winery located in Cotes du Rhone within the Rhone Valley of eastern France. Turns out they once caused quite a stir in the business of offensive wine label imagery. (This is where I’d like to prove my point about some countries getting away with more than others – and France certainly tends to have a little more nudité freedom – not only with reference to wine labels either)  Apparently they produced a series of rather saucy wine labels, aptly named “Cuvée Sexy” and one in particular was even named – or famed as one of the top ten erotic wine labels by The Drinks Business!  Voila!


Even if that was rather shocking back in the day – they’re not exactly classy at all now are they.

Then I came across a label which I thought was quite a beautiful piece of art nouveau, a central coast Californian wine called Cycles Gladiator, with the most awesome story to go along with it too!

Adam LaZarre (who looks like a hotter version of Bon Jovi) was the original wine maker and created this iconic wine. Using an image once used by a French bicycle manufacturer (there we go – the French again) depicts a naked lady (apparently a nymph) with locks of golden hair, flying through the night sky, hanging on to a bicycle.

I personally wouldn’t think it offensive at all, but in the state of Alabama, the liquor board banned this label, saying that it was totally inappropriate and would likely send out the wrong message! (Oh dear, best they don’t look some of our SA labels then)  And so the label left and a few years later, sadly so did Adam.  The new label which eventually minimised the image to virtually nothing  was almost symbolic to the wine brand itself, which in time faded away in quality and was later even down- graded. This elegantly playful wine brand was slowly dying. But years later, Adam returned – and so did the label! Sales are back up and what a brilliant story of rekindled-love this is indeed!


Wine labels that got into trouble... (Part Two)

So intrigued by these non-conformers to the everyday rule of labelling I was, that I simply had to find some more. Now if you read “Part One” and thought that the last few “sinners” were bad, then you’re likely to be a little gob-smacked by this...

It turns out, there are some pretty clever wine distributors out there – and we’ve all fallen victim to some of their cunning ways of marketing from time to time, but one wine supplier, namely Church and State Wines in the Okanagan Valley (British Columbia - Canada) stand out just a tad above the rest!  Their brainchild, Lost Inhibitions  has taken a market – be it a certain market - by storm. This new-age range of wines (two blends) literally goes about its purpose without inhibitions – that being the mischievous task of shocking you.

The labels are large and feature bright and bold font slogans and messages that you’re not likely to miss. They’re in your face so to speak – and if you don’t at least gasp, you’ll certainly have a good laugh! The idea behind these labels is that they “speak for themselves” in a way, although some are rather offensive, they dare to say what you don’t - but were likely thinking anyway!  

Challenging conventional labels is one thing – and these have done just that. Aimed at a younger market and most certainly the less conservative one - those who have no qualms in saying it like it is and especially those who tend to be a little foul-mouthed!  On evaluation of some of these labels, we thought they’re likely the perfect gift to share amongst girl friends on a night after the one before – when recalling some of the inconvenient happenings of a girls night out followed by automated and intoxicated social media posts...  in which case, these wines will have you feeling a lot better.


Part of Church and State Wines marketing and consumer engagement efforts is to get their followers and those who have purchased these wines – to share their stories as well as their ideas for new labels. Wouldn’t that be fancy if your favourite rant where published on a wine label? (Here’s the hash tag should you be f*cken  keen... ) #LostInhibitions

Church and State Winery have been named the No.1 small winery in British Columbia – and this tells us that there must be a whole lot more to them than just their quirky range of labels. How do they get away with it you might ask? Well, as we said before, there are always different rules in every country for every aspect of marketing, packaging, sales etiquette, etc. Whatever the reason may be – they do.

Some of the slogans on their labels are simply so perfect for whichever said occasion of sorts, that you simply can’t help but love them!

For more information about Church and State, visit their website at


What a perfect way to add the “lighter side of life” to a party, event or gathering. (This could even mean your ticket to great make-up after a tiff...)  But since wine is about so many things, let’s enjoy the non-conventionals, and lets embrace things like literary honesty and good hearty laughter!

Cheers to their boldness - and cheers to daring labels!


For more information on labels, printing, supply, advice and great service, contact Veritas Labels today!

Contact Us

We'd love to hear from you!