The New Age of Wine Labels

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There was a time not so long ago when all wine labels – whether they were hard to understand or not – were all the same.  They almost always had an image related to the winery in the center of the label often a coast of arms, depiction of the winery/chateau or a family crest.  Today marketing leads the charge when deciding on a label and not so often a representation of the winery itself.  Instead of illustrations of famous Chateau, we now have ‘critter’ labels.
Here’s a breakdown of how we’ve seen wine labels change over the last couple years…

Old Wine Labels

  • Center image is often times a family crest, coat of arms or drawing of the winery.
  • Muted colors, rarely more than 3 colors are used for the whole label. The background is almost always a pale yellow, orange or off-white.
  • Country of Origin is always mentioned, usually phrased as “produce of …”
  • Wines are identified as defined by the wine governing body of the country, either by region (Europe) or grape (US)
  • The reputation of the wine should speak for itself.

New Age Labels

  • Almost always some kind of marketing trick with new wineries, some labels user humor as a sell tactic – “Bitch” wine, “Oops” wine, “Big Ass Red Table Wine”, “Fat Bastard,” “Frog’s Piss,” etc
  • A trend of minimalist labels prevail sometimes only including the name of the wine without the region, winery, grape or vintage mentioned.
  • Labels are designed with the intention of selling the package and not the reputation of the winery.

So which is the better way to go?  Some changes have benefited the consumer especially when it comes to more American-centric European labels.  However, there are others when the marketing goes a bit too far.  Take for example, the now infamous example of this new age wine label – Bitch wine.  At first look, you can’t tell what the wine is, where it is from or who made it.  Or does that not matter anymore?   While there are a section of consumers unconcerned with those elements, most of us are concerned about what we are drinking and where it comes from.

Wine makers and owners have tried to extend their creative ability to differentiate themselves in way of an expressive label or name.  Which really isn’t a new concept. Take one of the most famous wineries in the world, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, who starting in 1924 has commissioned a different artist to design a new signature label for each vintage.  In my opinion what we see happening is just more of an infusion of wine with art, a pair that has been together for centuries.  I’m sure we’ll see even more drastic changes as this relationships evolves over the years but for the time being I will enjoy the interesting and amusing labels, but still by my wine based on reputation.


Posted on June 3, 2011, in Wine and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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