Tuesday, July 29, 2008
What's wine labelling all about?
Ideally it should tell you what you are buying (varietal, origin, wine-style etc).
What it has become is a confusing mess of differentiation, marketing messages and general hype that, in the rush to make any particular brand stand out, often has the reverse efect and makes all brands seem the same.
I am in the middle of yet another round of re-branding and creating new labels for a range of very good wines that have yet to become noticed. You've heard the expression 'one man's meat is another man's poison' well wine labels are like that - some people think a concept is great and others think it's crap. The designers like to throw in wild and off-the-wall images and get all pissy when the brand owners think it better to go safe and traditional. Marketers like me can see a bit of both sides of the argument and if it is a cheaper brand then support the off-the-wall idea ( I did create Monkey Bay after all) but if it is an expensive brand I put myself in the shoes of the prospective buyer paying $80 to $100 dollars a bottle in a restaurant and consider what they might like to see (safe, traditional, sophisticated etc).
I remember in the mid 90's Geoff Merril, an Australian winemaker of some note who had made his reputation mnaking wine for big wine companies and went out on his own. He made great wines, Gold Medal-winning and when it came to labelling he obviously became frustrated with all the variables.
He created a label named "Who Cares" that was stuck on the front of the bottle at a sloppy angle as if it was just slapped on. The back label said something along the lines of..."We made this bloody good wine and then the designers were arguing over what label should go on it. We decided who cares about the label ..just enjoy the wine"
The wines under this label were very good. The concept was great but the great unwashed just didn't get it and it was a failure. Merril subsequently adopted a safe, traditional label from then on.