Sunday, April 26, 2009

Labels: Does funny equal bad?

Why may I ask do funny or clever wine labels conjure up ideas that the wine inside the bottle is sub-par? Does an unpronounceable name or an illustration of a fancy schmancy chateau make the wine inside any better? Many people do, but I think not! In my humble opinion, labels are the voice of the winemaker to new or uneducated wine consumers. "Pssst....pick me, pick me, no pick me". Packaging keeps small and new wine makers "in the game". When you can't compete with reputation, you can at least try to compete with looks.

Be it an event, special occasion or gift, labels help us make a selection. Sharing wine with the people we love only helps the matter further. Choosing a label that fits the occasion or event we are going to, shows that we care and took the time to find something that made sense. Anyone can grab the foo-foo label or the one that costs a little more than we wanted to spend, but the person who comes in with the bottle that has a label that makes people smile or giggle will probably be the one they remember. If the "clever label" wine is a bust, at least the label did its job ... and if it's good... then it's that much easier to remember when you see it again on the shelf. On the other hand, if it's a "not so memorable label" and the wine stinks, then you run the risk of buying it again without even knowing it. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me're so damn common looking that I couldn't tell the difference.

Today I walked the aisles of my local wine shop and asked people if they thought the wine I was holding in my hands was good. The first bottle I picked up had a fancy name and an elaborate family crest on the label. 3 out of 4 times I got a response along the lines of, "It looks must be good" or "I don't know, it seems like it should be good by the way it looks". They were influenced by the label on the wine, (by the way, it was a dirt cheap bottle that shall remain nameless, and I have tried it before, and it's not very good, according to my taste).

I then held up a bottle with a picture of a cute goofy looking dog on the label and repeated the process. The answers changed a little bit and people's expressions changed as well. I got responses such as, "It's cute...give it a shot" and "I wouldn't trust it, I think I'd try something else". Goofy dogs = poorly made wine? I happen to like the wine and buy it often, (but that's just my opinion).

All in all, you never can tell. Labels should show the creativity and attitude of the people behind the wine. The process of making wine is creative in and of itself, so why shouldn't the design of the label on the bottle follow in the same vein? Sometimes I think winemakers put so much thought and effort into the wine that they run out of steam when it comes to the label ... or maybe they just can't express themselves visually. Wine is a journey ... and labels are like the road maps we follow. Sometimes you just want to get where you want to go ... and other times you don't care and just want to take a ride. I'm all for taking a ride. Wine is passion, and the passion should show in everything connected to the wine, especially the label.

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