When it comes to wine, we know that taste is key. The way vineyards plant, cultivate, and harvest grapes serves as the foundation of wine production. Equally important is the unique blending and aging process that varies among labels, regions, and wineries. But like many consumers, we also secretly judge wine by its label…
The design of wine bottles and labels reflects the brand, style, values, and artistic collaboration of vineyards. Wine labels tell a visual story about the wine while also serving as works of art themselves. At The Italy Edit, we’ve curated a list of wines that beautifully incorporate art into their branding. With over 20 wine regions in Italy (yes, 20!), this was no easy feat. But, we promise they don’t just look good, but taste delicious as well!
Donnafugata, one of Sicily’s leading wine estates, has seamlessly blended wine, art, and feminine identity for over three decades. The brand’s motto, “Our roots are in dialogue with art: a way of being that makes us unique,” embodies the special bond between Donnafugata’s founder, Gabriella Rallo, and the wine labels’ artist Stefano Vitale.
The name Donnafugata was inspired by the iconic Sicilian novel “The Leopard.” It pays homage to Queen Maria Carolina who sought refuge in the Contessa Entellina vineyards (now part of the company’s estate). The label’s iconic image often depicts “a woman with hair flowing in the wind.” This image serves as the brand’s symbol and captures the spirit of Queen Maria Carolina.
Life in Donnafugata
It’s safe to say that the true Donna of Donnafugata is Gabriella herself. When Gabriella left her teaching career to nurture the Contessa Entellina vineyards, she became a pioneer of female-led viticulture. As a result, she remains one of the few women in Sicily to produce wine in a male-dominated field.
Gabriella is also the inspiration for the colorful wine labels created by the talented Stefano Vitale, whom she met in 1994. For nearly 30 years, he has been the artistic mind behind the vibrant and decorative wine labels. With a deep understanding of Sicilian identity and feminine beauty, Stefano has successfully captured the essence of each wine through his visual language. Thus, Vitale has designed 20 labels for the brand. Inspired by the vivid colors of Sicily and the undulating landscapes, Stefano’s work reflects the genuine spirit of Sicilian folk art, touching the soul of those who encounter it. He says, “it is easy to paint the colors of Sicily because I simply had to paint my own colors.”
Donnafugata exemplifies the inseparable connection between wine production and artistry. The collaboration between Gabriella and Stefano is not only a testament to their ongoing friendship, but also a celebration of wine, art, and femininity.
In 1974, Vietti embarked on a unique venture that brought together art and wine. It all began on a cold evening, as friends shared a bottle of Barolo Rocche — a wine that left a lasting impression. The enthusiasm sparked by its deep, rich color gave rise to an idea: creating custom labels for this exceptional wine. The next day, they set the plan in motion.
For the past 40 years, Vietti, a winery located on the banks of Lake Maggiore, has partnered with selected artists to adorn their wines with original works of art, adding a touch of visual splendor to these special bottles. These include lithographs (prints), xylographies (woodcut prints), etchings, silkscreens, and linocuts (prints from linoleum sheets). All inspired by the wine of that particular vintage.
To make each bottle truly special, the first 100 bottles were personally signed by the artists. Not to mention, the print run matched the number of bottles produced. What sets this initiative apart is that each artwork is used only once and exclusively for that specific wine, going beyond traditional branding to create a personal and unique experience.
Over time, this endeavor has evolved into a curated collection known as “wine with art labels” by Vietti. Renowned artists such as Claudio Bonichi (1974), Gioxe De Micheli (1980), Janet Fish (1997), and Robert Cottingham (2003), among others, have contributed their talents to the label designs. The range of artistic styles, themes, and techniques showcased on the bottles truly sets Vietti apart in the collaborative world of art and winemaking.
Candoni de Zan
I will never forget the first time I came across Candoni de Zan‘s wine at a grocery store in Rome. I was looking for pasta and stepped into the wrong aisle — the wine aisle, filled with hundreds of labels staring back at me. It was all a blur until I glimpsed a picture of a well-known Etruscan fresco staring back at me.
As an art historian, I couldn’t resist picking it up and bringing it home to share with my fellow art historian roommates. Our excitement was palpable, and at that moment, it didn’t matter what the wine actually tasted like (though it was delicious!). The fresco was so beautifully reproduced on the bottle; the joy and vivacity of these ancient paintings were infectious.
The Etruscans, an ancient civilization predating the Romans, resided in the region between the Arno and Tiber rivers. Their frescoes vividly portrayed scenes from daily life, including banquets, music, dance, fishing, and feasting. Candoni de Zan’s bottles are adorned with unique works of art created through the technique of serigraphy. This process involves silk-screening the artwork directly onto the glass. This is done by stenciling ceramic glaze colors onto the bottle’s surface through a woven mesh. The choice of incorporating these artworks proves fitting. After all, Candoni de Zan beautifully embraces the ancient spirit of life through the preservation and cultivation of their winemaking heritage.
The story of Venissa, a “floating vineyard” located in the Venice lagoon, is definitely one of my favorites. Despite the seemingly unlikely notion of grapes thriving in a place known for its rising tides and frequent flooding, Venice’s viticultural heritage dates back thousands of years. In fact, there was even a vineyard in Piazza San Marco in 1100!
Venissa’s birth lies in the serendipitous rediscovery of an ancient Venetian grape variety believed to be extinct. In 2002, winemaker Gianluca Bisol stumbled upon a small vineyard in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta (the oldest church in Venice) on the small island of Torcello. It was there that he encountered Nicoletta, the owner, and became intrigued by the vines.
These vines turned out to be the famed Dorona of Venice, a grape variety once enjoyed by the Venetian doges. It was thought to have been wiped out during unprecedented flooding in the 1960s. Bisol replanted the grapes in a walled vineyard on the nearby island of Mazzorbo (located across a footbridge from Burano) and gave this historic grape a new life.
A Golden Label
And if the story itself isn’t remarkable enough, the process of crafting Venissa’s bottles adds an extra touch of enchantment. Made on the renowned island of Murano, an island celebrated for its exquisite glasswork, the bottles are designed by Giovanni Moretti and adorned with the prestigious “Battiloro” gold leaf. The Berta Battiloro family, who are skilled artisans, are the sole producers of Venetian gold leaf work. Each vintage showcases a square gold leaf with a distinct shape, featuring the wine’s name and the bottle’s individual number within the total production.
Additionally, 12 bottles created by artists are crafted each year, culminating in a truly breathtaking work of art. Venissa flawlessly marries the realms of artisanship and winemaking, setting the gold standard for excellence.
W’Heart! Cantine Barsento
Claudio Castellana is the mind behind the delightfully quirky W’Heart! initiative at Cantine Barsento, a winery that has been producing wine for over 40 years. Hailing from Puglia, Claudio is a digital artist who has brought W’Heart! Wine to life, a delightful fusion of vino, cuore, e arte (wine + heart + art) designed to captivate wine enthusiasts everywhere.
These concepts “merge and become a single word” — giving shape to labels that feature simple, colorful line drawings combined with fun phrases and puns. The labels serve as a platform for communication, specifically targeting today’s youth. Direct, optimistic, romantic, and expressive, these labels resonate with a generation that finds itself caught in the middle. A group born into the era of technological revolution. The goal was to find a mode of expression in line with the social one currently dominating our world today: made up of images and short messages that are sure to attract young wine aficionados.
With its vibrant colors, simple yet charming illustrations, and concise text, W’Heart! exudes a creative flair that perfectly reflects its creator. These labels are undeniably appealing and engaging, leaving you with an irresistible urge to collect them all.
Salvatore Marino is an explosive exploration of color, graphics, typography, and pop art. Of notable mention is the 2021 vintage “Vulcano” project between illustrator Gaurub Thakali and legendary winemaker Turi Marino. This initiative included three wines with incredibly designed labels: The Vulcano Bianco, Chiaro, and Rosso. Together, they represent Mount Etna’s volcanic and mineral-rich terroirs that form the basis of this Sicilian-based label.
Turi Marino, a Sicilian winemaker from Pachino, focuses on cultivating local grape varieties. This commitment to the region’s soil and balanced approach has continued through five generations of winemakers. “Wine is made in the vineyard” is a motto that Turi carries with him to this day. He takes a non-interventionist approach in the vineyards and cellar to craft artisanal wines that are full of local character. The beautiful labels are just the cherry on top.