In search of hard numbers, Real Simple enlisted the guidance of Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, and Fred J. Helmstetter, Ph. D., professor of neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. They helped Real Simple devise a memory test that duplicates the experience of seeing a cute bottle at a friend's house and trying to find it in a wine shop the next day (minus the worse-for-wear feeling resulting from imbibing three glasses of said wine at friend's house the evening before).
In the study, 11 staff members were shown a dozen bottles of wine―six with graphic labels, six with traditional ones. The following day, everyone was shown the same bottles mixed in with an additional 12 wines (half with graphic labels, half with traditional ones). When asked to identify the original bottles, eight staffers (73 percent) were able to recall the names of every one of the graphic-label wines. By contrast, only two staffers (18 percent) could correctly identify all the wines with traditional labels.
To put it another way: The test subjects could remember an average of 94 percent of the bottles with graphic wine labels and 68 percent of the ones with traditional labels. Any way you look at it, cheeky pictures and conspicuous type make a significant difference―no matter how subtle the wine inside.
Real Simple's tasting panel uncorked some of the creative-label picks of sommelier Lauren Bernardini. Here's what they thought.
Reds and Rosés2005 Circle K Ranch Three Thieves Pinot Noir, $12
"Light" and "very good" was how testers described this "red wine for white wine drinkers."
2005 The Magnificent Wine Co. House Wine, $11
"Spicy," said one taster. "Smooth," noted another, who liked the berry flavors. "It would be good in a stew."
2005 Pure Love Wines Layer Cake Shiraz, $15
Although some tasters found this wine a little on the heavy side, others delighted in its rich plum and jam flavors. "Spicy and yummy," said a panelist. "Great for Italian food."
2003 Nine Stones McLaren Vale Shiraz, $11
A panel favorite, this "full-bodied, robust wine" was praised for its smoothness. "I love it," said a taster. "Amazing," said another.
Whites2005 Big House Wine Co. Big House White, $11
Tasters liked the clean, grassy flavor of this wine, calling it "refreshing." "Great for an everyday family meal," said a panelist.
2005 Red Truck Wines White Truck Chardonnay, $10
Tasters called this wine "simple and crisp," with a variety of fruit flavors.
2004 Francis Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blancs, $17
"Very easy to drink," a taster said of this sparkling wine, which was likened to "a toned-down Champagne." One panelist suggested mixing it with cassis for an affordable take on the kir royale.
2005 Bodegas Naia Naia Verdejo, $13
Tasters raved about this bottle, citing grapefruit, green apple, peach, and kiwi flavors. "Soft and light," said one white-wine fan.
2005 Thierry and Guy Fat Bastard Chardonnay, $11
"Sweet" and "light" was the verdict on this bottle. One panelist called it "a good wine for people who aren't big wine drinkers."