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Where the Wild Things Are

When a beast is on the label, studies show, Americans buy a new wine twice as frequently as the non-animal label competitors.

From dancing bulls to leaping frogs, black swans to roaming goats, a veritable zoo of animals appears on wine labels today. Indeed, some credit the popularity of  "critter labels" with the success of the affordable Australian Yellow Tail brand introduced here in 2001.

Although it seems novel, the fixation with critter labels isn't new. In 1981, the name Frog's Leap was chosen "to deflate the pretension of wine," according to award-winning label artist Chuck House.

He designed the beloved leaping frog logo that is now part of the permanent collection in the Smithsonian. "Internationally, animals need no translation," says House. "I combined that tradition with wit and energy so the label would age gracefully over time -- like wine."

Margaret and Dan Duckhorn co-founded Duckhorn Wine Company, which began with a traditional sketched duck on its label. Now its sister winery, Paraduxx, commissions artists to create original paintings depicting a beautiful pair of ducks for its label.

Why animals? "Unlike a ... label with lots of words, the animal catches the eye," says Duckhorn winemaker Bill Nancarrow. "You'll likely recall it when you shop for wine again." With so many animals in the world, wineries will likely never run out of mascots.

Frog's Leap 

Designer Chuck House created the Frog's Leap label for a couple hundred bucks and a few cases of wine. That same year, the label was awarded the Design of Excellence award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Dancing Bull 

In 2000, Rancho Zabaco introduced a delicious "wow" value Zinfandel along with a new dynamic label of a charging bull image to display its Mexican heritage. Sales shot up a whopping 135 percent.

Toad Hollow 

Inspiration for this wine label came from founder Todd Williams' nickname, "Toad." Although the various labels of walking, talking, wine-sipping toads are whimsical, there's serious wine inside.

Need help figuring out the flavors of specific bottles and the foods to pair them with? Publix can help! Click here for our Wine Style Chart.

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