Hitting the Bottle With Style: Wine Labels Dress Up

"People were coming into wine shops and asking for the wine with the hippo," said May. Fat Bastard is the biggest-selling French chardonnay in America, and Goats do Roam, the largest-selling South African wine in the U.S.

May added that many well-established wine producers are following the trend, and jazzing up their labels. "Change or die," he said.

Even France, known for its long wine tradition and strict rules, has loosened its standards in the last year.

French wines have always been known by their region. But, that has changed with some wine producers who now blend various regional wines and sell them under a catch-all "France" label. Some of the labels are splashier, and are aimed at making French wines more competitive on liquor store shelves.

The change occurred because French wines were losing market share to wines from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere.

Take Fat Bastard, a wine from the south of France. It does not exactly have the most traditional French name for a wine.

But, its catering to American marketing goes beyond the brand name. One of its red wines is called Shiraz, even though the French typically call the same wine Syrah. Shiraz is more commonly used in wines from Australia and South America — wines that have flooded the American marketplace.

Having a name like Fat Bastard also helps. The company says, on its Web site, that, at first, "most people bought a bottle because of the name and returned to buy cases because of the quality."

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