ICON: ART OF THE WINE LABELA Collection of Work by Jeffrey Caldewey and Chuck House
The Wine Appreciation Guild
ISBN 1-891267-30-2S. San Francisco, California287 pages. Large format. $85.
Most of the world’s citizens are oblivious to the world of design. At least on a conscious level.
Yet in our industrialized world, it’s a part of everyday life and a factor in nearly every buying decision. Package design is, at the very least, commercial art. In the case of wine, label design can very definitely be commercial. It can also be defined as fine art, as certainly is the case with the works of designers Jeffrey Caldewey and Chuck House as exhibited in “ICON, ART OF THE WINE LABEL.”
With prefaces by Robert Mondavi and the noted English wine writer Hugh Johnson, the reader will find some insight to history of the packaging of wine of the rather recent creation and development of the labels affixed to bottles. Further understanding comes in nine pages defined as “DIALOGUE,” in which designers/authors Caldewey and House give alternating riffs on the nature of wine label design and their part in it. “With a child’s enthusiasm, I stuff my pockets with rocks and twigs from the vineyard, make notes on tabletops, and slip out of bed at midnight to scribble arcane doodles on scraps of paper,” reveals Caldewey of his creative approach to a new client. His colleague Chuck House says that he’s a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and takes a Holmes-like approach to viewing every project as a mystery there for his solving.
Over 100 of their designs are given two-page profiles. A paragraph of background on each selection occupies the left-hand page. On the facing right hand page is a life-size photo of the labeled bottle by the brilliant Robert Bruno.
Perhaps predictably, many of the labels adorn small production, expensive wines. Others present the image of larger volume wines owned by entities more concerned with realities of the marketplace than with vanity. I know that the Forest Glen Cabernet Sauvignon pictured on page 258 is modestly priced. The same variety from Bryant Family Vineyard on page 122 is not. Evaluating the contents of such bottles might be done by “blind tasting,” in which the wine would be sampled without knowledge of its pedigree. If the same method could be employed to judge the quality of art on the outside of the bottle, could I say which was more worthy? I don’t think so. The authors’ comments provide their objectives in designing these two handsome packages, obviously intended for different audiences.
“ICON” is beautifully presented and would be an impressive addition to any wine buff’s coffee table. For wine marketers it would have even greater value.
--Reviewer Dan Clarke was asked to leave the only art class in which he enrolled. He may not know much about art, but does know what he likes and appreciates classic automobiles and beautiful wine labels such as those of Jeffrey Caldewey and Chuck House.