Celebrating The Design of The Wine Label

As someone who makes his living through design, I have a greater interest than most in the labels which grace the bottles I drink with regularity. For too many winemakers, the label is just a required piece of packaging that needs to just “stand out” and have all the legal information required by the state.

In reality, that small square of paper is a beautifully constrained space for design, an opportunity to use the restrictions of a small piece of real estate (the front and back labels for a bottle) to create a real emotional impact and embody something of the personality of the wine or those who made it.

Now I’m not going to wax artsy here, but there are all sorts of interesting things being done in wine label design that are worthy of recognition and reflection at the level of design, and not just because they make us reach out and pull that bottle off the shelf.

Tthis is where the newly opened San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design comes in. Starting this week (actually the opening reception was last Friday) the museum is putting on a show called “Beyond The Pour — Pairing Art and Wine Label Design.”

The show is punctuated, or accompanied, by several speaking and wine tasting events that are worth taking note of:

Thursday October 27th 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Curator Bob Nugent will discuss the exhibition with attendees as well as material from his new book on wine label design.

Saturday November 5th 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Curator Bob Nugent hosts a panel discussion with several of the designers whose work is featured in the exhibition. The panel is followed by a wine tasting event until 5:30 PM.

Saturday Afternoon (Date TBD – Check the web site) 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Kimberly Charles, Spokesperson for the Society of Wine Educators will discuss the significance of wine glass design. The talk is followed by a wine tasting event until 5:30 PM.

Finally (and you’ll only hear about this through Vinography) the museum is also hosting a series of special (read: higher end) wine tastings for members conducted by sommelier Doug Wilder of Vinfolio who will also be hosting a forum on the relationship between winemaking and wine packaging. These take place on November 12th and December 3rd, so if you want to attend, all you need to do is become a member of the new museum and then ask some pointed questions. You can also tell them that Vinography sent you.

The tastings usually run $10 and the speaker series is free to members, $5 for non-members.

The San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design
550 Sutter Street (off Union Square)
San Francisco, CA 94111


The Museum is open Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am ” 5 pm, Thursdays from 10 am ” 7 pm and Sundays from 12 pm ” 5 pm. The Museum is closed on Mondays.

Docent tours are offered every Thursday (call for specific times) or by appointment for special groups.