January 31, 2010

Wine label design

Ok, it's time to get serious about wine label design. For my homemade wine, I worked on a simple script label with my neighbor. I like it, but it's not complete and it's too similiar to a California winery that has Vincent as part of its name. They're cool with me calling my wine Vincent, but we both agree the look shouldn't be too similar.

As much as I like the simple script label, I want some graphical element in the label, something that can translate to other uses in print and online. Rather than just tweak the font and add in that little something, I think it's smart to rethink the whole thing from the start. There wasn't a lot of thought in the first place.

What am I going for? Something classic rather than trendy, elegant rather than busy, classy without being ostentatious, quiet but bright rather than loud and brash. Really, something that reflects the wine I want to make. Marketability is a concern of course, but I know that my wine won't appeal to everyone. A wine label doesn't need to either. It does need to appeal to the people who will enjoy the wine.

I don't really like most wine labels out there, to be honest. What do I like? From the old world, things like Tempier and Bastide Blanche from Bandol, Lapierre's Morgon, Baumard's Clos St. Yves, Leroy. All classic. From the newer school, Texier and Breton.

Here in Oregon, simplicity -- Ayres, McKinlay, Andrew Rich, Evesham Wood.

That "little something" I'm going for? Scott Paul's rabbit is a nice example of the kind of thing, though it's usually not so big as seen here.

What labels do you like?


Patrick McGowan said...

It looks like you have a great and terrific challenge ahead of you. What fun! I have a couple of thoughts to share if you are game. A classic old-world style for a label always seems appropriate for wine. However, two thoughts for your consideration: 1) What is the character of your wine? How do you describe it compared to how your favorite drinkers describe it? 2) What type of label are your best customers attracted to? Related to this is: How would you describe your best customers?

These are important considerations -- which I am sure you are already aware of. While what you like is also important, I would argue it is not as important. Get three equally plausible ideas from your designer and then try them out at a local liquor store to see what stands out on the shelf -- and even take three or friends with you. Afterwards you can treat them to a glass from your private reserve!

I wish you luck and look forward to seeing a bottle of Vincent on our local shelves one day.

Vincent Fritzsche said...


Thanks for that terrific comment. I have thought about those things, and yet I'm still thinking about them. The answers aren't always clear, they change, they seem hard to pin down.

I'm motivated by the balance of old world wines. Brighter and full flavored but not lush and dull or overripe. So my label thoughts lean old world, or at the least, elegant. Of course, one doesn't manufacture wine like other products. It will take a while to do what's necessary -- or not do what's unnecesesary -- to achieve the style I'm interested in. And there is vintage variation to content with. 2009 was a hot year here, so the wines won't be lean and racy in general.

Who are my customers? Who knows, at this point. I don't have any, yet. That said, the core I want to reach will likely find an elegant and simple design more in alignment with the wine itself and the experience of a winery visit or what have you. I'm not a Tuscan palace, gold lame kind of guy. I'm looking for farmer's market shoppers, library card holders, gardeners and home cooks. Internet savvy types who still find a place for old fashioned things. I think what fits best there is something authentically classic, not overly so, not glaringly contemporary, maybe like Riedel glasses or other things that fit equally at a refined or rustic table. How's that?

Thanks so much for the good wishes. It means a lot.

brandsteve said...

Did you read the article we talked about at J's party?


Perhaps there are ideas there to help guide your thinking.

I would start first with the working model of the brand you want to build. What image do you want to portray? What price points do you want to support? What niche in the market do you want to hold?

Given that 'green' is here to stay, how can you incorporate eco-marketing into your concept?

Your core brand choices will guide more than the label, but your bottle selection - shape, weight, color and other the many other choices including packaging, your web site, and on it goes.

John's doing a terrific job aiming at the category you talked about -- the wine that anyone can afford and enjoy. Though I suspect his financial model requires producing wine in greater volume than you might want.

Scott Paul's branding is worth paying attention to. Scott & Martha have paid more attention to branding than anyone except perhaps Domaine Serene. The Rabbit motif is ever present and is even carved into the supports for the tasting bar at the winery.

This is one of my favorite topics. It's fun to think about it outside of my day job in technology marketing.


Doug A. said...

I think old world style labels dutifully pay homage to the old world...and this is a good thing. Chances are none of us would have gotten excited about Pinot Noir had Burgundy never made it first. Most Burgundy labels are modest and honest and while this doesn't necessarily reflect what is in the bottle, at least they are also respecting local tradition and the labors of their parents and predecessors. In my opinion, humility and modesty are basic principles and glitz and flash are just that. Of course, I'm not gen X or Y, more like generation 'UV'.