Only a few decades ago, a common belief was that the more contemporary the design of the label, the more mediocre the quality of the wine inside. The legendary luxury wines of Europe remained faithful to the centuries-old tradition of featuring labels with ornate script lettering, fine line engravings of chateaus, gold foil borders and corks sealed and stamped with red wax. Only upstart nouveau wineries in places like California ignored proper wine labeling etiquette by hiring graphic designers to come up with something colorful and stylish.
But perceptions have changed. Fine wines are being sold in supermarkets, online and even Costco. Wines from around the world compete for consumer attention and shelf space. The assumption that bottles with traditional labels contain better wine no longer has validity. Wine packaging and labels are projecting unique brand personalities, and not shying away from presenting a look that is bold and innovative.
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Wine packaging is steeped in tradition and sometimes unfounded biases, and connoisseurs are quick to form opinions about the quality of wine inside by the bottle’s shape, color and design. The cork versus screw cap debate, for instance, has been going on for well over a decade. So, it will be interesting to note the wine-drinking market’s response to Paperboy, packaged in a bottle made entirely from compressed recycled paper. UK packaging producer GreenBottle teamed with California wine producer Truett-Hurst to unveil the world’s first paper wine bottle. It is being sold in Safeway supermarkets on the West Coast now, with plans to offer it across the U.S. soon. London/NY-based agency Stranger & Stranger designed the Paperboy label graphics, which were printed with natural inks.
GreenBottle reports that the paper bottle, with a liquid-tight insulated plastic bladder inside, has a carbon footprint that is one third of an equivalent glass bottle. The bottle is feather-light, weighing about an ounce when empty, thus reducing shipping, handling and energy consumption costs. Despite its lightweight, Paperboy bottles are said to be rigid and strong, and ice bucket safe for three hours. Sounds good. Now let’s see if wine snobs can get past the fact that they’re drinking a brand sold in a paper bottle.
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Sydney-based design agency, The Creative Method, says “give us a great story and we’ll give you a great brand.” So when Alternative Organic Wine asked them to design the packaging for a premium limited edition of its organic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, they focused on the product’s naturalness and not on the traditional way that luxury wines are presented. Creative Method explains that the “concept shows a vine, from the leaves to the bark to the wine.” Every aspect of the packaging was natural, from the outer wrapping paper with the grape leaf pattern printed using organic inks, to the laser-cut balsa wood label, to the string and the wax seal used to affix the label. Just by looking at the packaging, it communicates unique and organic.
Delhaize, a supermarket chain in Belgium, issued its own private label brand of regional wines and commissioned Spanish design studio Lavernia & Cienfuegos to create a label that looked festive and fun and great for casual entertaining. Quirky characters carved out of cork represented the regional origin of each wine in a playful, unpretentious way. The label design positioned the house brand as a value product with personality.
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Alfaro is a tiny town in the renowned wine-producing La Rioja province in northern Spain. The region has been making wine since the days of the Phoenicians, with the earliest record of grape-growing dating to 873. This year to celebrate La Fiesta Barroca, Palacios Remondo created two commemorative wine collections that pay tribute to Alfaro, home to its winery. Palacios Remondo commissioned Estudio Dorian to design the packaging around a Baroque theme. The collection includes six labels for each wine, with the extravagantly Baroque ornamentation contained in the simple letterforms. The result is an understated elegance, clean and contemporary yet suggestive of a rich heritage.