Printed on paper or on the bottle, round or square, etched or frosted, flat or embossed, black or color, wine labels feature many available styles and techniques. The possibilities are endless and winemakers have traded conventionalism for more unusual methods in the name of marketing. While some winemakers focus on the name of the wine, others put all their attention in the label design. Distinctive packaging has become an increasingly important way for wine brands to distinguish themselves. Let’s take a look at the various types of wine labels and explain their visual benefits.
Far more traditional than any other methods, paper labels remain the most utilized style. This label type being so widely popular, it must rely on clever and original graphic designs for distinction and uniqueness. While the visual style varies from pictorial, illustrative, or written, they all strive to be powerful, colorful, rich, sometimes shocking in order to attract the consumer’s interest. In spite of its limitations, designers have come up with clever tricks to entice the consumer, like the Wishbone label pictured above.
No paper and no glue required… The ink is applied to the bottle itself. This labeling style offers endless possibilities and an extremely sharp printing definition. In addition to a glossier finish, they provide for a sought-after graphic design technique called “negative space”, in which the color of the wine becomes a graphic element.
Georges Duboeuf, a famous French winemaker, is notorious for using this technique for his Beaujolais Nouveau, where the bottle is entirely covered with a very colorful art.
Wax was once used to seal carboy (demijohn) or wine bottles, and prevent air from getting in contact with the precious content. Very few winemakers nostalgically continue to use wax to add a vintage look to their wine while most have adopted modern closure methods. Wax is also used to display an emblem, a coat of arms or the name of the wine. This sporadic method is a simple way to differ from the rest, and evokes a warm and stable feeling that reminds us of the past. This simple material gives the wine a trusted and reliable value. Though I must warn you as this could be an insidious ruse to get you to buy the wine.
• VARIOUS MATERIALS
“The sky is the limit!” And when it comes to labeling a wine bottle, some winemakers challenge the limit of what is possible. The word “unique” is every winemaker’s ultimate goal for the wine they produce as well as the packaging they use. Being unique is being distinct, therefore more visible to the consumer. The use of various materials makes the wine bottle more conspicuous. The materials vary from plastic to various metal, wood, straw, fabric, punch label and even dirt! Creativity plays a gigantic role in this category, and even if it feels a little unorthodox, we should appreciate the art form.
For centuries, wine bottles were very expensive items handcrafted by artisans. Kings, noble families and wealthy merchants had elaborate bottles made to order, often embossed with their coat of arms. It appears that embossed bottles are making a comeback–at least for wine brands that want to display a distinctive image in the marketplace. Probably one of the most impressive category, as it automatically makes the bottle far more majestic and official. A young wine carrying such historical emblem seems older than most of its rivals. Embossing is a very intricate procedure that adds about 5-15% to the overall design and manufacturing cost. The technique is called “cartouching”, and it involves slapping hot glass on an already made bottle.
Less is more! Some winemakers will opt for a minimal look and simple forms to make an impact. Most wine labels being so complicated, they choose to go the other extreme and use the absence of designs to differentiate themselves from the horde. This clever strategy has proven to be very beneficial. But how long will this last? It works well as long as it remains a rare method. If too many winemakers start using it, this style will lose its most appealing characteristic.
This is the highest form of marketing and perhaps the most controverted label style of all… simply because so much effort has been put into the creation and the design of the label, the result is almost overwhelming and takes away from what’s really important: the wine. Don’t get me wrong; I have an extreme appreciation for art in general. I’ve studied art for 5 years and married a graphic designer. Wine, food and the arts go hand in hand (ref. Robert Mondavi) but when done to the extreme, it shifts the focus away from the wine. Wine doesn’t belong in a museum, it needs to be enjoyed and shared amongst friends and family.
“CHATEAU LAURENT” – I’m afraid I’m a little too late for this one as it is already taken, but it doesn’t have to be my name… In fact, I can order a bottle of wine and write just about anything I want on the label. Dozens of online companies will gladly take your order. The process is quite simple: choose from predesigned images or make up your own and upload your picture to the site, pick your wine style and voilà! You are now the proud owner of your own line or wine. Whether your purchase is for a special occasion or simply a “just because”, custom wine labels are sure to make an impact.
Just like with people, our perception of wine quality can be affected by looks. While some shoppers do some research before buying their wine, others rely entirely on the “love at first sight” phenomenon. Those compulsive buyers follow their instincts based on looks… But can you really fall in love with a specific wine based on a glimpse? I’m sure you’ve been told never to judge people based on looks… well this concept is very applicable to wine. Never judge a wine bottle by its label. What really matters is inside.
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Wine quote: “Even more importantly, it’s wine, food and the arts. Incorporating those three enhances the quality of life.” – Robert Mondavi (enjoy more famous excerpts.)