The art of the wine label


The art of the wine label

Wine brings with it a certain set of expectations, but with new generations increasingly turning to it, the labelling needs to reflect what’s in the bottle in an inclusive manner. Howard Wright, creative director at Equator Design, explains the importance of narrative

Wine is one of the few consumer products that has its packaging and labelling displayed prominently and proudly during use. It can be the centrepiece of dinner parties, and can inspire discussion and debate. Among the wine cognoscenti, it can make or break personal reputations, such is its power.

In the world of us mere mortals however, the familiar bottle shapes have been around for more than 200 years with very little change, but modern label designs are opening up this sometimes conservative category, inspiring and widening engagement with new generations.

Traditionally, wine labels have promoted the heritage and the age of the wine, expecting consumers to understand the difference between a good vintage and a lesser wine. But times are changing. Today’s brand-savvy consumers are looking for something more. The research into the wine market undertaken at Equator Design on behalf of various clients, including The Co-operative, points to a real shift in attitudes among younger consumers, as well as older purchasers.

The days of buying wine solely based on a ‘chateau style’ label are on the wane. Drinkers increasingly want to understand what it is they are buying and whether it is right for them. They want to feel confident that they are choosing the right wine for the right occasion – whether for a barbecue or as a gift for the host – and they don’t want to feel embarrassed by their choice. The label starts a conversation and creates an emotional engagement that inspires purchase.

Working closely with The Co-operative wine team, Equator Design now delivers across the whole wine portfolio, and is able to identify the individual story behind the wine and how each one needs to communicate with the target audience. It is creating labels that cover the spectrum of emotions, from traditional designs taking cues from the provenance or history of the wine through to bold and humorous wines that grab the attention – but it is the individual story that needs to shine through.

Take the work for The Co-operative’s Truly Irresistible Wine range. The creative team looked deep into each region and vineyard, as well as the individual wines themselves, to draw inspiration and create a story about each. The result was a range of labels that combine contemporary and traditional creative with a unique narrative for each wine.

The design for the Truly Irresistible Picpouel de Pinet French white is inspired by the vibrant Settoise water jousting festival, incorporating an impressionist-style illustration of the festival itself. Silver foils are used to create the impressionist illustration, while bold spot-varnished blocks represent the water.

At Equator, we believe that contemporary wine labels should tap in to the personality of the consumer and create a bond. As with all categories, there are design classics that resonate with consumers and these are what they often look for and recognise, but with more new wines being launched, and some previously forgotten being reintroduced, it’s a great opportunity to help them reconnect with today’s consumers.

Equator has identified a simple five-step approach to achieve this:
1. Understand the wine’s attributes: what makes it different, what are the tasting notes, the colour?
2. What is the functionality of the wine: what do the attributes deliver, what food types does it suit, when and where is it suitable?
3. What are the emotional cues it can deliver: is it a wine to be savoured or one to be taken to a party?
4. What are the values of the wine: has it a tradition or heritage, is there a story about how it was made or discovered?
5. What is the character of the wine: taking all of the above findings, how do these translate into the wine’s character?

All of this information helps us understand what conversation we should be building. Wine is an upbeat product chosen out of all types of positive intention, and the wine label needs to reflect this. It can be humorous, frivolous, educational or knowledgeable, but it should always be inclusive.