Château Mouton Rothschild's Jeff Koons Label

Forget about judging a book or an album by its cover — the digital revolution will soon enough make this concept irrelevant, outddated, impossible. There'll never be downloadable wine, however, so the label must go on, so to speak. And one label that I hope keeps going on in perpetuity is the annual Château Mouton Rotschild label, which is given over to a major artist every year; the 2010 vintage, released today, features art by Jeff Koons.

Koons is a polarizing figure in the art world, beloved by collectors for his concersation-piece sculptures of shiny bunnies and lamented by some critics who see his art as cute or banal. Whatever, his name alone is provocative, and it'll get the 2010 Château Mouton Rotschild a lot of attention over the coming days. The art, as you can see, mixes classical with contemporary, plus a dash of Koons-ian humor. But to the winemaking family behind the bottle, this is no joke.

How do I know? In 2008, I had the privelege to sit next to Baronness Philippine de Rothschild, the reining heir to the famed Château, at a luncheon during Art Basel Miami Beach, where she was announcing the 2006 vintage artist label by Lucien Freud. As we sipped various delicious vintages of her wine, the Baronness spoke proudly of this artful tradition, which dates back to 1945, and includes such prestigious names as Picasso, Miró and Warhol (the website Luxist has a gallery of 15 of the labels).

A lot more goes into making a great wine than putting art on the label, but this is one tradition that deserves almost as much attention as the grapes.

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