There is the scientific art form of the wine itself. Then there is the physical, visible art of what makes it to the product line: the wine label.

If there is any piece of advice I reiterate until I’m blue in the face more than the drill of [happily] breaking down the foundations of “Champagne is not called Champagne unless it’s from the Champagne region” for any newcomer wine lover, it’s the idiom of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I can’t tell you the number of fantastic wines housed inside bottles with labels easily picked over, many by small-production producers with modest marketing budgets.

But what happens when that cover and its integrity are in question?

Enter the world of debating what qualifies as a blatant knockoff or not, the speculation of stolen property whether in physical or concept form. This is something we have certainly seen in other industry mediums. We see it in fast fashion but we also see it in wine. While the most notorious for offenses in the wine world include Hardy Rodenstock and Rudy Kurniawan and grandiose foraging akin to the clone copies of coveted Louis Vuitton or Chanel, there is another area of “inspiration” interestthe credit of artwork which makes it on a wine label.

When does “inspiration” cross the line?

While some may argue that debatable plagiarism is not as flagrant of an infraction like a wine steward physically stealing bottles of artwork and wine, others argue that artistry and collaboration with artists must be acknowledged and preserved no matter what. The most recent example of this clash of opinions is the conversation around the work of artist Shantell Martin, who considered legal action after it was brought to her attention that wine labels from Bodegas San Huberto featured nearly identical iterations of her artwork on their Aminga release.

Shantell Martin / Photo Credit: Connie Tsang, Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Many actually believed she had partnered up with the brand as she had done with a different beverage brand in the past, but she made it clear she had not partnered with them. She makes the case for the continued collaboration between artists and brands, noting that some fail to go through the proper channels. Then there are others who take the time to actually commission artists purposefully for their label artwork, like Vin Manent with artist Catalina Abbot.

Which position do you echo? Will leave it to you to decide for yourself!

Side-by-side comparison / Photo Credit: Shantell Martin’s Twitter Feed