The Minima Moralia of Wine Labels

Wine labels are great fun. I say this from the lucky perspective of not having to design them or to make the excruciating choices of the “perfect” descriptors for their back labels. I also usually know how to read them, unless they’re in Cyrillic, Japanese or Chinese.

Back in June, I presented a lecture on Romanian wines. Leading up to the event, I asked lots of questions about the different wineries’ labels. History, romance, tradition and terroir were subtly laced into their designs. The day of the tasting half a dozen people separately commented on how great many of the labels were. Bravo!

One line in particular from Domeniul Coroanei Segarcea captivated me. The label for each wine is a close-up of a person who embodies the wine’s style. The idea behind the cleverly named Minima Moralia line, named after Theodor Adorno’s collection of aphorisms, is to “consider” the wine as reflected through the person.

The pictures are captivating, even haunting. This is due in part to the photographic process used:  collodion. The collodion technique records the subject in minute detail. Mind you, this does not require the latest, greatest Cannon digital lens for optimal results. This method of developing photographs replaced the original daguerreotype in the late 1850s. (A fine close-up of one of their photographer’s work can be seen here.)

Looking at the faces while sipping “their” wines, it can be mind-bending to contemplate what usually goes unconsidered, as was Adorno’s objective, especially with names like Honesty, Honor, Hope, Gratitude, Respect and Devotion. Does the older gentleman embody "Respect", has he lost "Respect" for other humans, or must we "Respect" him? Has the young lady been tested for her "Honesty" and does this wine represent her with "Honesty"?  Such inquisition ties in seamlessly with the winery’s motto: “Nothing without passion.”