Of all consumer goods, wine is one of the hardest for which to shop. Faced with an overwhelming array of options on retail shelves, many people feel paralyzed by the sheer number of options. Wine labels don't convey much about how wines will taste, so a significant proportion of shoppers end up picking wines based on the visual appeal of the label art alone. Luckily, there's quite a lot we can learn from a wine's package design, because it reflects the vintner's sensibilities and view of its target audience. As a result, label art will often telegraph something about how a wine will taste. Sedate colors and old-fashioned engravings suggest more food-friendliness, which in most cases means leaner, drier wines with more prominent acidity. But more modern designs, featuring bolder artwork, splashier colors, and lighthearted names, suggest riper wines with bolder and more "dessert-like" flavors, meant for immediate gratification. This Washington syrah is a perfect example, with its concentrated flavors of blueberry pie and blackberry jam, and a meaty aromatic layer that's more like beef jerky. The cherry bomb on the label and the irreverent name suggest explosive flavor and are a pretty good match for the wine inside.
Charles Smith "Boom Boom" Syrah, Washington, $14.99 (regularly $17.99; sale price through July 29). PLCB Item #1501.