Judging Wine by the Label
How Winemakers Get You to Buy Their Brand
How many times have you picked up a bottle of wine simply because the label was interesting or the most attractive? In fact, with so many options to choose from, sometimes you may you feel like you need an advanced degree or even an online doctorate just to make the right selection. If this applies to you, there’s no reason to be embarrassed – many consumers make their wine purchase decision based entirely upon the look of the label. As a result, wine brands and winemakers have been carefully scrutinizing wine label designs and dedicating more resources to their creation, possibly more than any other food and beverage.
What makes a wine label appealing is largely based on the demographic of the consumer. For example, one of the most common label designs are those that look sophisticated or “traditional.” These labels are often found on wines that have been established and are well known in the mainstream wine market, like Clos du Bois, Bolla, Moet & Chandon, as well as less expensive wines like Gallo and Sutter Home. The labels are pretty basic, and usually are a solid color with a cursive or customized brand print and minimal artwork.
This style of label seems to be particularly attractive to older consumers, as they consider basic labels to the markers of solid, “old-standby” wines they can trust, while labels that are artistically abstract, hip, or boldly colored and shaped cause some older buyers to worry the wine inside is unique as the label. Although the labels rarely reflect on the contents inside the bottle, winemakers fully play into customer’s tendency to associate a bottle’s label with the wine inside.
While labels with eye-catching bright colors and and creative designs or patterns may be a turnoff for some, they often draw the attention of younger consumers and wine-drinkers – that is, those who don’t know, or don’t care too much about what’s inside the pretty label. As a result, more and more wine bottles are sporting labels with individualistic, kitschy designs. For example, the labels on wines from Bully Hill, Moral Compass, Fat Bastard and Boxhead have signature post-modern-like or pop art designs; some of them reminiscent of art in the ’80s.
How Much Influence Does Wine Label Have Over Wine Contents?
For the most part, whether a consumer purchases a bottle of wine based upon the aesthetics of the label, or the actual type, brand or year of the wine, is dependent upon how much the consumer knows about wine. Most wine consumers have at least basic knowledge of wine: they know whether they prefer merlot or cabernet, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc, and prosecco or sparkling wine. Therefore, when a consumer has even some idea of what pinot noir is like, the label will have less influence over a generalized purchase. However, the label can still have significant impact – especially when choosing between several different brands of the same wine.
As a matter of fact, it is more common for a consumer to be influenced by a wine bottle’s label when the selection has been narrowed down to several brands of the same type of wine or wine grape. If a consumer knows they want a bottle of petite syrah, but is unsure about which brand to buy, they are more likely to go with the bottle with the coolest label.
What a Wine Label Really Tells You
The contents of a wine label required by law are simply the brand, the class or type – which can be as specific as “chardonnay 70 percent, torrontes 30 percent,” or as generic as simply “red table wine” and the location where it was bottled along with it’s alcohol content and net volume. Other than these elements, taste and wine note descriptions are usually a bunch of buzz words, created to make the wine sound appealing, but may not reflect what the consumer actually tastes.
The year of a particular wine also is an important factor to which customers should pay attention. For instance, the exact same brand of cabernet will have a marked difference between bottles from 2009 and 1999. However, many brands do not have older bottles of wine available, because they did not exist until a few years ago. These brands, you’ll find, are often the brands that must rely upon label aesthetics, because they don’t have the reputation or market age of brands like Robert Mondavi or Dom Perignon.
Ultimately it takes time to learn the different notes of not only of each type of wine, but also the various tastes of each grape and the year of each wine. Consumers can ask wine experts, research online, read product reviews and so forth, but the only real way to know whether the wine is as good as its label, is through experience.
—Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from earning heronline doctorate to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.–