Why Wine Labels Matter
Designing wine labels is one of the most important parts of making a great wine. That might sound ridiculous, after all, it’s the contents that really matter. But what is a masterpiece if nobody is around to look at it? Just a really good-looking dust magnet (just like many a cellared bottle!).
Although you should never judge a book by its cover, what you see can have an impact on what you taste, so thinking “that’s a sexy label” often results in your tongue’s agreement.
You’d be surprised, but when we see a great label, we aren’t thinking about the wine in the bottle. We’re thinking about our personal aesthetic. Our own perception of what looks interesting, attractive, and intriguing determines if we pick a bottle up, and that perception is something deeply personal. It’s governed by where and when we grew up, what we liked to watch, listen to, and do. It’s also about who we are now. Your tastes as a 21-year-old (how many times have you celebrated that birthday now?) compared to your tastes at 51 are very different. As these experiences happen, they change what looks good to us, and ultimately, what we’re going to pick up and drink.
We subconsciously ask ourselves “Does this wine look like something I would enjoy?” and if the answer is yes, and the price is right, in the basket it goes.
The way we pick a label also depends on the occasion the bottle is for. If it’s an everyday bottle of wine, then something that is well priced and looks ‘fun’ works well. This is when personal aesthetic says “this looks cool and like me”. If we’re off to dinner or trying to impress, we have to get a little wow-factor about the whole thing. This is when we consider traditional vs. modern, and familiarity. Traditional wine labels are generally quite boring. They might have a picture of a vineyard on them, or just some serif wording. They’re not winning any prizes for artistic merit, but they will attract the eye of someone looking for a ‘posh’ bottle, which is often someone looking to impress. A traditional bottle over £10 is a likely dinner winner, but what of the modern look? Well, it’s certainly more difficult to pick something that looks cool but is also reliably impressive. Modern labels often use textures that give a label a premium feel as a sign of the quality. This can be a secret way to tell if something is worth taking home.
There is a lot of information about colour psychology if you go looking for it. A lot of it is rubbish, but some things do grab our attention more than others. Red, oranges and golds shout “Pick me up” but can also be a bit too excitable about themselves. As wine becomes more expensive, we look for something a bit more traditionally wine-sexy, not because we prefer it, but because we expect it.
Wine labels aren’t just names on a bottle. We expect more from the companies we buy from nowadays and that means their stories matter. If the winemakers story resonates with us, in the basket that bottle will go.
Making someone laugh is a great way to make friends, and the same can be said for wine. Humorous labels can make a wine more fun to pick up and buy. In fact, 51% of consumers are find funny labels more appealing.
Finally, there are the things that matter to us. Sustainability, organic wine, and vegan wines are important to a lot of people, so you’re likely to see these as part of the bottles’ story.
Wine labels aren’t all bells and whistles. There is some important content in between the design that will help you pick the right bottle for you. We go into the key parts in our blog here, but knowing your grapes, flavours and sustainability information is helpful. On most new-world wines, you’ll find the grape type, and this will be particularly useful in picking a wine you’ll like. On the old-world front, it might be a little trickier, but the back of the label can be a source of great information.
Picking Something Great
There’s no exact science here. A great label doesn’t make for a great wine, and vice versa. Winemakers are more aware than ever about the importance of a quality label in showcasing the bottle contents, so there are some tips that can help you pick something that you’ll enjoy in the glass.
- If you like something classic, a traditional label with a price point over £15 is a good direction to go.
- If you like modern labels, find something with a little texture. It’s a way for winemakers to show their attention to detail.
- Check for the story. It’s the substance behind a design that says a lot more about the winemaker than the pretty picture.
- Modern winemakers are savvy. You’ll find a lot of good-looking bottles under £10. This is a trick to get you to buy something that looks better than it is, so don’t get drawn in by bright colours.
- Find a source you can trust. The wine in the bottle always matters most, so find someone who can be trusted to tell you what’s great regardless of the label.