Archival Consumed: Animal Pragmatism

[Yellow Tail Wine]

For a shortcut, clichéd summation of growing consumer sophistication, consider the wine category: Back when we didn’t know anything, wine meant Blue Nun, jugs of Gallo, little bottles of Lancers and hokey Aldo Cella commercials. Nowadays we have taste, and even suburban megamarts have huge and varied wine selections for the demanding mass affluent. Of course, real wine connoisseurs have walked the earth for many years — as have nonconnoisseurs who find such people to be annoying snobs and who find today’s megamart selection to be a big, bewildering taunt. It’s one thing to sense that there’s a huge spectrum of quality represented on that shelf, but it’s something else to make a decision. Perhaps, in light of this, it’s no surprise that a new factor has emerged that apparently helps many of us parse the options: the “critter label.”

A critter label is any label that features an animal, from a hippo to a frog to a penguin. According to ACNielsen, the market-research company, 438 viable table-wine brands have been introduced in the past three years, and 18 percent — nearly one in five — feature an animal on the label. “Combined with existing critter labels,” the firm said in a summation of its research on this matter, “sales of critter-branded wine have reached more than $600 million.”

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