What goes into a natural wine label

Can we judge a natural wine by its label?

Posted by Holly Berrigan on

The labels on natural wine bottles have a reputation for being “fun” or “expressive.” Some people love it, other people hate it, and it has sometimes become synonymous with people assuming all wine is glou-glou style. While that is sometimes the case, it's not always true. What is true is that they impact people's impression of the wine and our buying decisions!

In celebration of the fun labels found on the wines in the MYSA x WWOW October wine club bottles, myself and Rania invited Chris Kelly of Vintel Wine to join us for an IG Live to get his take on what goes into designing wine labels, why people purchase one bottle of wine vs another, and what to consider in the design process. We’ve highlighted below some of the most interesting points Chris made in our conversation. Scroll to the bottom for the full interview!

Rania and Chris from Vintel Wine
Chris has worked in the wine industry for about 15 years. He became a certified somm in 2012 where he got more involved in wine buying and tasting groups. “My heart has always been driven by natural wines.” Recently, he jumped full time into design work for the natural wine category with some help from COVID-19 where he found the time to focus on his passion. Below we have our questions and summaries of his responses:

Where do you prefer to focus on your design work?

Working in the restaurant industry, I’ve seen it over and over people choosing bottles saying it ‘represents who I am or what I'm wearing’. We aesthetically gravitate towards specific bottles. I’ve witnessed the success of good labels, and I wanted to be a part of that.

Is it OK to judge a bottle of wine by its label?

Rania chimed in immediately to offer her take: “Yes - you need to put as much effort into the packaging as you do into the winemaking process. [The label] should be a reflection of what's in the bottle.”

While Chris sees the category of natural wine all about nonconformity and expression. “Expression can be furthered aesthetically as allure. It’s one of the oldest marketing tricks in the world: hook and lure.”

Describe the difference between conventional and natural wine labels.

It seems you can immediately identify a natural wine based on the label compared to the classic producers. However, these days it’s getting to be a gray area.

What should a natural wine label look like?

Trying the wines is super important and getting to know the producers (what’s for dinner, what’s on the table, etc.). Understanding the winemaker and where they want to go with the bottle. These should also be fun and unexpected.

Any do’s and don'ts?

Fonts are a big issue in the wine world. FYI - 2mm is the legal minimum to print. I think Martha Stoumen Wines does it the best with the wrap label to get all of the legal information needed without sacrificing design.

Designing the back label is equally important as the front label. Ideally, you want people touching your product and turning the bottle around.

Are brightly-colored wine labels bigger sellers compared to neutral labels?

Absolutely. Especially now with online purchasing. The bottles that sell the fastest are likely the ones that have brighter labels. More contrast in the design. I like using high contrast and unique fonts with the copy or logo.

What industry would you design for if you weren’t designing for wine?

Working somewhere in sustainability. I'm very interested in packaging and see that as a great next step from wine labels in our future.

We hope this gave you something to think about when you're at the store next purchasing bottles! Are you picking it based off of the label? What is the label saying to you?

Throughout the conversation, we also shared our favorite natural wine labels. Check out this gallery for inspiration.

Wine Labels
Holly Berrigan is the Founder of MYSA Natural Wine. She has a WSET Level 3 certification with Distinction, is a member and writer for the Porto Protocol and Slow Food USA, and is a student in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge.

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