Wine has become a significant beverage in many nations around the world. It is an ever-growing industry, with new labels entering the market every day. Consumers have countless options of wine brands and varieties to choose from when purchasing a wine from retail shelves. The reality is that most consumers aren’t connoisseurs; they are customers looking to buy an experience. Does the label make the sale? Do the labels on bottles drive consumers to certain wines over others? Does packaging make or break a product?
Wine labels are important sources of information for consumers since they tell the type and origin of the wine. The label is often the only resource a buyer has for evaluating the wine before purchasing it. According to several marketing researchers, it is the most important factor in making the initial sale. So, a lot of effort goes into its design, just to get that initial attraction to the bottle. The wine label is something that triggers the consumer to pick up the bottle because it tells a story, or it can just be an attraction due to colour or design.
The main objective of a wine label is twofold. First, the label must tell the buyer exactly what he/she is buying. Second, it aims to attract a buyer’s attention or catch a buyer’s eye. The wine label has always served to inform the buyer of at least the type and producer of the wine.
There are mandatory elements regarding wine labels, some of which must appear on the front of the label, whilst others may appear on any side or neck. These mandatory items include:
· the country of origin
· the bottler’s name and address
· the net contents in metric measurement (e.g. 750 ml)
· alcohol by volume percentage, such as 12% vol
· the wine type/ style (red wine, white wine, sparkling wine. table wine)
· indications of sweetness (“dry”, “medium dry”, “medium sweet” or “sweet”, depending on its residual sugar content)
· the grape variety (merlot, chardonnay, etc.)
· the bottling batch/lot, and
· sulphite declaration (e.g. “Contains Sulphites”) must be printed on labels of wines containing over 10 parts per million of sulphur dioxide
In addition to the mandatory information included on wine labels (as required by government authorities), all sorts of other words can appear. This wine label lingo can be meaningless phrases intended to make you think that you’re getting a special quality wine, or words that provide useful information about what’s in the bottle. Optional information includes the vintage designates and the year when the grapes used to produce a bottle were harvested.
The vintage can tell you a great deal about the quality of a bottle of wine, as annual variations in weather and climate greatly affect the quality of any particular harvest. This is why you’ll hear wine critics saying that the same wine from the same producer can be better or worse depending on the year.
Additional information may range from winemaker’s tasting notes, drinking recommendations, information about medals and prizes, historical information about the wine or the producer, or detailed analytical and tasting information, often featured on labels, especially the back label. Finally, producers may include their web site address and a QR Code (Quick Response Code) with vintage specific information.
The wines produced within EU are divided into two quality categories, Table Wines (TW) and Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWpsr). The TW and QWpsr categories are translated into different national wine classifications for each member state.
Whether a bottle is from the New World or the Old World, a label will always tell you where the grapes used to produce the wine were sourced, and this designation can range in scale from an entire country or state (“France”) to a specific region (“Chablis”) or even a single vineyard site (the Grand Cru vineyard “Les Clos” in the village of Chablis). As an example, France uses four levels of classification. Vin de table and Vin de pays are both EU table wines, while Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) and Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) wines are QWpsr. In Burgundy, there are 110 appellations in an area only one-fifth the size of Bordeaux.
Complicating the system is the fact that it is common for villages to append the name of their most famous vineyard to that of the village. In Spain and Portugal, the authenticity of the wine is guaranteed by a seal on the label or a band over the cork under the capsule. This is promulgated by the growers’ association in each area. German wine labels are particularly noted for the detail that they can provide in determining the quality and style of the wine.
Up until 2004, all Cyprus wines were basically considered as table wines. Accession to the European Union, however, has necessitated new legislation that would classify the wines produced on the island. A classification was introduced based on the French model, which became effective in 2006.
There are five areas for so-called OEOP (Oinos Eleghomenis Onomasias Proelefsis, QWpsr) wines with denomination of origin. These wines must come from vineyards that are higher than 600 meters above sea level. The vinification and bottling must take place in the OEOP areas. The five-OEOP (Wines of Controlled Appellation of Origin) areas are:
Commandaria: This area includes 14 municipalities in the southern foothills of the Troodos Mountains north of Limassol. It was defined as the first in 1980.
Krasohoria Lemesou: This area includes 20 municipalities in the southern foothills of the Troodos Mountains north of Limassol.
Pitsilia: This area, the largest, includes 32 villages on the eastern edge of the Troodos Mountains.
Akamas Laona: This area covers six towns on the coast in the northwest of the island north of the harbour town of Paphos.
Vouni Panayia Ambelitis: This area lies in the central west of the island on the western edge of the Troodos Mountain range northeast of Paphos.
Furthermore, table wines may have regional designations, which must originate in one of the four districts: Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos or Larnaca. Essentially, these categories correspond to the French “Vin de Pays” wines.
Traditionally, wine labels were very much influenced by European countries like France, where they tend to have a much more conservative look and feel. Wine labels convey a sense of place, time and tradition. Certain types of wine have their names trade-marked in Europe. With some European wines, the region or place of origin is key. Varieties of wine such as Bordeaux, Champagne or Burgundy are named after the regions they were grown in, so a wine not grown in these areas can’t have that name on its label.
In the early days, most labels were austere, rectangular one- or two-colour affairs featuring illustrations of chateaux and bold declarations of the names of the wineries. European labels include the location where the wine grapes were grown. New World labels put the emphasis on the brand or producer and the grape variety or blend, not necessarily the region or appellation. American wine bottles don’t always mention the region where the grapes were grown. The U.S. is leading the change towards very colourful and non-traditional wine labels. New World wine labels burst from the shelves with bold colours and torn, distorted shapes often peering through the bottle itself. They are occasionally decorated with colourful animals, layered with screens and hidden topics. The financial success of New World wine attributed to striking label designs has led some European producers to follow suit.
The people who put the wine in the bottle want the consumer to buy it. Consequently, wine labels may contain visually attractive, eye-catching graphics or art, descriptions of how the wine tastes, how it was made and what foods it best accompanies, technical information (wood ageing for example), and marketing terms such as “reserve” or “special selection”.
The label is an essential component of the presentation of wine. The front label design and back label information are, along with price, grape variety and recommendation, decisive influencers in the purchase. Everyone has heard the old saying about not judging a book by its cover, but if people are honest with themselves, they will admit that the images accompanying a product can have a huge impact on whether or not it is an appealing purchase. According to studies, the label is the most important piece of communication between the marketer and the consumer. The aesthetic appeal of a wine label initiates the first purchase, while the quality of the wine initiates a second purchase.
Some wineries place great importance on the label design while others do not. There are wineries that have not changed their label’s design in over 60 years, while others hire designers every year to change it. Labels may include images of works by well-known artists, and these may be collector’s pieces. However, producers often attempt to make selecting and purchasing wine easy and non-intimidating by making their labels playful and inviting.
Evolving technology is also changing the nature of label design. To encourage a hand to reach deeper into their pocket, consumers expect to see labels that feature minimalist, uncluttered designs and an elegant, refined font. Years ago, metallic inks and foil hot-stamping were much more expensive than they are today. Adding texture – such as embossing – provides a tactile feature that activates increased perceptions of price and correlates with heightened anticipation and an increased drinking experience. The designer’s aim is to make the wines look more expensive or more premium, so when they are on the shelf next to competitors they simply look more exclusive.
Humans really do eat with their eyes and it’s the same with wine. Imagine a wonderfully prepared meal that’s thrown onto a plate very sloppily. It is just not going to have the same kind of effect as something that’s beautifully plated. Eating and drinking isn’t just about taste, but it’s a combination of all our senses – smell, touch, vision and even sounds.
One of the most popular tactics wine label designers use is trying to make the label look the way a consumer would want to feel. They can do this with the colours they use, the font, and with pictures. Winemakers know that labels attract certain kinds of customers. If a bottle of wine features a cartoon fish, it might subconsciously reach out to someone who is making fish for dinner. Colours and styles can also trigger specific emotional reactions; bright colours usually encourage positive feelings while a sunset can remind us of romance. Red is the colour of passion, black is the colour of mystery, and purple is the colour of luxury.
The effectiveness of a wine label has everything to do with reaching the right customer. Wineries have learned that a great wine label is (almost) more important than the wine itself.
The design of wine labels must be viewed in the context of hundreds of other competing labels. It really is a split second decision. However, just imagine what would happen if we buy wines based solely on label or simply for their aesthetic appeal. Unfortunately, one of the problems with judging wines strictly by their labels rarely results in the wine living up to your expectations. Consequently, avoid the temptation to go for an expensive wine simply because of its label. Luckily, every time we try a new wine, there’s always something completely different. After all, if someone spent so much time and effort on the label, they must have spent even more on the wine itself! At the end of the day, what have you got to lose? It’s still wine!