Drinking with Your Eyes – Wine Labels of The Future?

Wine labels can seduce us into buying a bottle of wine and David Schuemann’s book 99 Bottles of Wine exposes some of the industry’s secrets about the subliminal messages that trick us into making that purchase.

Schuemann is the creative director for CF Napa Brand Design (whose clients include the likes of Fetzer and Duckhorn) and he has conducted consumer research in which the same wine was poured for people, but from different bottles with different labels. He found that the more they liked the label, they more they liked the wine. He makes some interesting revelations in an interview with The Salt:

“We always make a wine look about $10 more expensive than it is. So then it appears like an even better value . . . We add gold foil to the label or a gold stamping. We emboss the label or add a third dimension to give it a rich texture or tactile feel.”

“In general, people associate minimalist, uncluttered designs with high-end vintages and sophisticated flavours . . . More expensive labels tend to have a cream or white background with a simple logo. Maybe a splash of gold or metal. But they don’t have critters on them. Otherwise, experienced wine drinkers think it looks cheap.”

However for less-accomplished oenophiles who are still experimenting with wine, Schuemann’s team makes the labels more colourful and louder for wines under $10:

“They’re whimsical in a clever way and we’ll still add a bit of gold foil to show the quality.”

Schuemann says that even the foil at the top of the bottle is designed to appeal with gold or small print so that people perceive the wine as more expensive because so much care has gone into its packaging. On cheaper bottles the foils colour helps beginners know what flavours to expect: a red foil communicates berries, while a green or yellow foil says buttery or tropical flavors are inside.

Aradhna Krishna, a marketing Professor at the University of Michigan, said that:

“Eating and drinking isn’t just about taste, but it’s a combination of all our five senses — smell, touch, vision and even sounds.”
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“If the description on the back makes you imagine the wine’s fruity bouquet and the way it feels in your mouth, then the taste will be enhanced and consumption goes up.”

Earlier today I came across a company that have taken this notion one step further – Uproot Wine in Napa have released wines with unique labels that display a colour bar representing the wine’s tasting notes. The colour bars make up a ‘flavour palette’ that is unique to each variety of wine. This infographic gives an immediate snapshot of what the wine tastes like – which is a great idea.

However I would have put it on the back label, not the front. To me, the front label is what sells the wine. We all see the front label first. Wine enthusiasts who know what they want will look at the label for the wine’s name, the vintage or AOC but if they don’t know the wine and are hunting for something new, an attractive label works wonders as it catches your eye.

If the front label is well designed and alluring that’s the moment when we turn the bottle around and look at the back for more information. Uproot’s infographic would be brilliant on the back label as it communicates its message far faster than reading lengthy small print.

I’m not suggesting that it would work on the back labels of the Bordeaux Grand Crus (sacré bleu!) but it might do well on the less expensive wines which need to appeal to a wider audience.

What do you think? Are we looking at the wine labels of the future?

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