A bottle of wine always comes in handy: be it as a gift to take to a party or for friends, family, business associates or colleagues. Wines are both non-binding and personal at the same time. However, taste can differ widely and so does the range of varieties available.
Those unfamiliar with a wine who have no time for tasting have to rely on the label. It is the business card of the company and the wine-growing estate, respectively. If the label fits the overall appearance of the brand, thereby becoming an integral part of it, recognition levels rise and customer loyalty is strengthened.
Peter Schweiger sends a clear message about the maturity of his wine through design. The hands of the clock point to 4 o’clock – before April no wine of the previous year’s vintage is put on the market. Photo: Weingut Peter Schweiger
This is why many wine suppliers now use consistent label design for their collections – making it clear at a glance that these wines are members of one family although they differ in variety. A very similar approach is adopted when modernising a brand’s image. Most of the time the basic design elements are retained and only the design look and feel are adapted to the zeitgeist – by slightly changing the typeface, for example, or by adding more white to the label or by using natural paper. In contrast to this, wine vendors deliberately focus on strikingly different looks for special products such as signature or seasonal wines, new cuvées or specialties such as organic wines.
Wines made by Emil Bauer & Söhne’s wine-growing estate provoke shoppers with striking labels. Photo: Weingut Emil Bauer & Söhne
Plain to opulent
Simply put, a label is nothing but a “signpost” with product information. However, what features on the top, centre and rear label often says a lot more about the wine than discernible a first sight.
To underline a personal note and the handcrafted nature of the wine photos of the vintner are often printed on the label on the back of the bottle. A similar message is sent by labels that appear to be signed by hand. The message is clear: with our wines the vintner him or herself personally stands for the quality of the wine.
The label of Weingut Peter Schweigers underlines that wines should be given sufficient time for ageing if possible. It features a clock next to a compass that symbolises attachment to the region. The hand points to 4 o’clock because the wines of the previous year’s vintage are not released before April.
The raised middle finger subtitled ‘Fuck off Intolerance’ on the label of Fred Strieth’s Rheingau wine is a statement against intolerance and racism. Photo: Weingut Strieth.
In general, it can be said that wine labels have been pared down over the past ten years. Featuring plain elements for the most part they look a lot more exquisite and uncluttered today. Additional information is generally featured on the back; the front label aims to convey the brand and the identity of the wine-growing estate. Organic wine certificates or special wine ratings that used to be featured prominently in the past are now increasingly giving way to names, logos or terroirs.
Another trend in wine labels is hip strap lines or plays on words with sometimes provocative connotations. Whether a wine named “Our Daily Bread” or featuring a raised middle finger goes down well in a Catholic village does not seem to have worried the creative minds behind such labels. Instead, they have their sights on a hip, young target group. Names like ‘Scheu ..., aber geil’(Shy… but hot) (making reference to the Scheu vine) ‘Freundschaftsspiel (Friendly)’ or ‘Pornfelder’ – combining the PORTugieser and DornFELDER varieties are all aimed at dispelling the fusty image of a very tradition-rich sector among the young crowd. For some wine-growing estates this seems to be the right approach. They see that this image facelift has positively impacted sales and that marketing and packaging have gained in importance.
As personal as it gets: with glue-it-yourself wine labels. Photo: Michael Felix Kijac, Kolorit Design
Those still not finding the right message among the labels offered on wine shelves can simply have their favourite labels printed. Webshops and graphic art agencies already offer a variety of pre-designed wine bottle stickers for different occasions. For Christmas you toast with ‘Merry Drunk I’m Christmas’, for Valentine’s Day you are ‘Drunk with Love’ and on the days in-between the motto reads ‘I’m on a wine diet, I already lost three days’. And if you are still not happy, why not go for completely customised wine labels – for a wedding or an anniversary.