Of all the changes in the wine business over the past decade, from its growing popularity in the United States to the flood of imports from Australia, one of the most significant has been the revolution in wine marketing — and, more specifically, the introduction of the cute label. These livestock wines (though not all of them feature animals, and some are more juvenile than cute), not only sell wine, but they’re bringing in new customers — especially women, and especially 21- to 35-year-old women, a demographic that’s all the rage these days.

Why is this happening? Many reasons, but primarily consolidation among producers, which has resulted in fewer, bigger companies. Bigger companies mean bigger and more sophisticated marketing budgets, as well as a need to sell more product to pay for the bigger budgets. Plus, there has been extensive overproduction of grapes for much of the past 10 years, which means there are plenty of cheap grapes around to turn into wine with a cute label.

So is any of this wine any good? Or is it just an exercise in marketing? These wines do their labels proud:

• Thirsty Lizard Shiraz 2004 ($9) — The lizard’s name is Larry, and the wine has more body than most inexpensive shirazes without much of the unpleasant aftertaste so many inexpensive Aussie wines bring with them.

• Torres Sangre de Toro 2005 ($10) — Spanish red blend that comes with a little plastic bull. Some of us have way too many plastic bulls.

• Rosenblum Cellars Chateau La Paws Cote du Bone Blanc 2004 ($15) — A crisp and fruity white blend from California’s Kent Rosenblum, who is not only a world-class winemaker but also a vet. There is also a red blend, Cote du Bone Roan, equally as nice.


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