Behind the Back Label with Craig Hawkins


What’s behind a label? Quite a lot, on occasion. Some vignerons put that extra effort into the design creating a memorable brand identity. There’s often a story or a coded message on the front, an image that may relate to the vineyard, or the region, or something allegorical or philosophical that has influenced the grower on their winemaking journey. There is a vogue in the natural wine world, for instance, for bold punning labels, or something striking, highly referential and even phantasmagorical.

Craig Hawkins loves street art and cultural references. His front labels are very personal, and beautifully done. His back labels each year also contain little verbal pearls, quips and quotes, and here, for the first time, are the explanations behind them.

El Bandito Cortez

“In memory of Nico Cafagno.”

Nico is Carlo Lupori’s good friend who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. He was a great photographer and I used his photo for the new Cortez 2019 label. Carlo and I were having dinner one night and we were discussing how I came up with photos for my wine labels. He showed me this one of him which Nico took. I really loved it, so we dedicated it to him (Nico).  

El Bandito Skin Contact

“Mutation – it is the key to our evolution.”

I believe this comment may even have come from X-men, but it struck a powerful chord with me as nearly everything has evolved from some form of mutation or another. I enjoy the parallels with wine, as with wine you only really learn from the unexpected things that happen during the whole wine/vine transformation process.  

El Bandito Mangaliza

“Never get out of the boat unless you’re going all the way.”

A quote from Apocalypse Now, one of my favourite movies for a number of reasons. These words were said by a young Martin Sheen, the full quote being: “Never get out of the boat.  Absolutely goddamn right.  Unless you’re going all the way.”

Basically, he’s saying that once you commit, there is no turning back. I really like this comment as I like to commit to something 100%, and have no fear in doing so.

El Bandito Lords of Dogtown 

“The Amazon River Dolphin, or Boto, is a freshwater dolphin that inhabits the waterways of the Amazon.”

I was watching a programme on these animals and I was fascinated by them (they are pink and quite rare), as this wine is very small production, I thought it suited the wine.


This is a word a friend of mine uses when he doesn’t like something, but he likes this wine a lot, so it’s meant in a sarcastic sense, and just for him really.

I am the Ninja Pet Nat 

“Layla enjoys tummy rubs.”  

Layla is the name of the dog on the label. I asked Marty who knows the dog – and took the photo – what she (Layla) likes best, and he said “tummy rubs are what she enjoys most…”

El Bandito Monkey Gone Heaven 

“You’re just like an angel your skin makes me cry.”

This is a line from the song “Creep” by Radiohead. Most people older than 30 should know that song!

“Wine is best enjoyed with a pinkie raised in salute.”

If you actually hold a glass of wine and raise one pinky (small finger) in the air, it does add another dimension to the wine and makes everything serious in your life feel just a little bit less serious. It generally makes you smile. My Austrian importer Moritz Hertzog also always holds his glass like this, which I find very funny.

El Bandito Queen of Spades 

“What matters is always just the one thing: to penetrate to the very heart of a thing and make it better.” ~ Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse Lautrec, in his sober moments, came up with some pretty original thoughts. I read a book about him and this quote stuck with me, as he wasn’t interested in the being popular for the time in which he lived, but rather to get straight to the “heart of the matter” and make something that would endure for a very good reason.

El Bandito The Dark Side 

“Think clean, clear of noise.”

I enjoy a bit of golf and love sports, and I watched a documentary on Tiger Woods. His ability to block out the “noise” and do what needed to be done was/is unparalleled. I like this comment (think clean, clear of noise), as it can apply to anything in life.

Baby Bandito Stay Brave

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

This is also an oldie, but I always enjoy it. It reminds you not to be complacent and keep improving.

Note: this quote has been attributed to a lot of people from Confucius to the chemist, James Watson.

Baby Bandito Keep on Punching 

“What would we do without Edgar?”  

My good friend Edgar who makes wine in Romania (Nachbil) has helped me for several harvests. 2019 was a very big year for us and without him I would have struggled. Thanks to his ideas and calm head, we got through everything ok.

“With him you can steal horses.”

This is an Austrian saying, that basically means “you can go to war with him.”

Baby Bandito Follow Your Dreams 

“That’s how you get to Carnegie Hall, don’t you? Practice!”

That final scene in the movie Inglorious Bastards where Brad Pitt utters the famous old joke, referring to the fact that nothing comes without hard work. I think this applies perfectly to the wine “Follow Your Dreams”.


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