Inside Wine Packaging Gimmicks

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - May 02, 2007
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I’m curious. How much does the appearance of the label on a bottle of wine matter to you? You’ve heard all the clichés. “Beauty is only skin deep.” “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” “Looks aren’t everything.”

But when it comes to marketing a wine on a wine store shelf, it’s obviously very important because companies spend a lot of money designing labels that will appeal to consumers. Every winemaker wants their wine to stand out, and putting it in a unique package does just that.

Just look at how many “critter” wines are now on the market shelf. There are animals all over the place - it’s like a zoo! There’s the Little Penguin, Papio (with monkeys on the label, not fish), the never-to-be-seen Roogle (a mythical creature made by the combination of an eagle and a kangaroo) of Marquis Philips, Three Emus, and no one can forget the kangaroo on Yellow Tail wines.

Marketers know that humans remember images of animals more readily than other images. There are countless brands of wines that go through new packaging during their many years of existence. Take a look at Robert Mondavi Winery or Beaulieu Vineyards, and even Clos du Bois labels over the many years. They have tried to keep their packaging attractive to us so that we will buy them. Now we even have “shock” labels that really get some attention. Fat Bastard, Evil (spelled backward and upside down on the label too), Virgin and even Bitch. How does that grab you?

Does bottle size matter to you? Even though the contents of the bottle are still the same, some bottles are irregularly shaped. Some are diamond shaped, some are taller, squatter. Some bottles are heavier, heavy enough so that you can hurt your wrist just pouring the wine. And some bottles are even bent or twisted just to grab your attention. So it has to be important enough to someone.

Have you heard the talking label yet? Somewhere in Italy there is a company designing labels that actually tell you the story of the wine before you buy it. Just press the button on the label and voila, your own tell-a-story sommelier.

I can’t wait for the label that has a motion sensor on it that yells at you for you attention. “Hey, check me out!” Maybe they all will be shouting at once. That’s the stuff nightmares are made of. I bet Ray Bradbury could have written a good tale about that. Or it could be yet another terrible excuse for someone who drank too much: “The bottle told me to drink it!”

Let me admit something to you. Before I really started to learn about wines, I, too, gravitated to the labels that I thought looked really nice. I’d grab the bottle and I would turn it around and read the short introduction of the wine described in words that grabbed me and tried to convince me it was a bottle worth buying.

But I think the bottom line is that people will only get wrapped up in the packaging of the wine for a short introductory period on their drinking path. Once they delve into the sea of different wines and find their own preferences, they steer wide of the gimmicks of packaging and marketing.

Sure, if someone wants to try something new and likes a label more than another it may work, but there is so much information today, whether it be in periodicals, magazines or the almighty Internet, people can find out more about what is inside the bottle than what is just on the bottle.

And for me, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

More than just a pretty bottle: 2005 La Spinetta ‘Il Nero Di Casanova’ ($25) this superlative Sangiovese will thrill your senses. It is deep, rich and done in a modern style. 2005 Au Bon Climat ‘La Bauge Au Dessus’ Pinot Noir ($27) Jim Clendenen has done it again, fashioning this sexy, spicy, delectable wine.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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