Wine Labels – Works of Art or Source of Information?
How often do people choose their favorite wine based on the label? If a picture is worth a
thousand words, does the picture make the vino sweeter? Recently wine bottle labels have become such works of art one has to wonder if people buy the wine for its well-crafted varietal or for the mini-Picassos that garnish its container.
There’s no question that wine makers are competing for market share and they are spending more of their energies on making that instant connection with the consumer. Many hire pricy graphic designers and ad agencies to create the perfect brand identity with the intention of capturing the eye of amateur wine enthusiasts who are easily swayed by clever packaging.
Choosing a bottle of wine isn’t just a matter of red and white. There are several things most wine enthusiasts look for. Let’s start with the varietal, geographic origin and the vintage date. These are all things that will factor into the actual quality of the wine. Some additional mandatory information that needs to appear on the label are alcohol content, net volume, name and address of the producer, any declaration of sulfites, estate bottled, and of course a health warning statement and government warning.
Most wine drinkers, however, look for the brand first. I spoke with a representative of Southern Wine and Spirits and he told me that the reason these more graphically appealing bottles sell more often because they are purchased today to drink tonight. In other words, the greater percentage of wine drinkers are buying wine to DRINK them, rather than to collect them for their quality. One can only assume that the designers of these labels are mentally channeling their inner child before a game of dodge ball and want their labels to say, “Pick me! Pick Me!” There is also a trend to remove and save the labels, whether to keep a journal of wine tastings or to frame and display the decorative artwork.
Designs of wine bottle labels range from the traditional old world script font with images of
castles, chateaus or a coat of arms. These are mostly found in wines from France, Italy or South America. Some labels strive to be beautiful and artistic and consumers actually purchase some of these bottles simply to display their creative flair. The latest trend is to invoke humor with sarcastic names or tongue in cheek catchy phases. Then there are “critter labels,” especially from Australian wines, that feature animals in their name or design. I found three alone that had a kangaroo on its label, two with frogs and two with monkeys. Fat Bastard, which is the best-selling French wine in the US proudly depicts a hippo as its mascot. Do they have hippos roaming the French countryside?
My friends are now creating their own wine labels. I realize these make great gifts for the
holidays or wedding favors, but I once received a bottle with my friend’s dog on the label. Am I supposed to drink it or display it? This has me so confused! I think I’ll have a glass of Chase’s Harvest and ponder this some more.