Posted by: David Stewart | December 16, 2011

How to see beyond the label

Can you see beyond the label? Can I?

Some people flaunt their personal label, be it a political party or whatever. It becomes a part of our identity. To what extent does it reflect the truth of our interior being, or do we change to resemble our label?

I am not an expert on labeling or marketing, but I know what I like (as the old saying goes). In a bottle of wine, the juice is only part of the experience. What does the bottle’s label say about its contents, those who harvested the grapes or made the wine?

Sometimes wine labels are designed to catch the eye of the harried shopper, looking for a quick bottle for tonight’s supper. The result of this is often, to my sense, a total disaster.

The Bad


I don’t know what the guys at Carlton Cellars were thinking about with their labeling. Each of their terrific wines has a different photo of an Oregon Coast location. Because each is different, there is no unified look to help you identify their wines. Even worse, the photos are really ugly. This label would make me embarrassed to select this wine for my friends.


Another winery with the "no two labels alike" problem is Twelve Wines. These labels are at least an improvement over Carlton Cellars – at least they are not ugly. And they have chosen photos which are not just pretty pictures but which are meaningful to the name "Twelve". Pretty fun, but still not very effective in communicating anything about the wine or the place the grapes were grown.

The Good


Brian at Belle Pente has a consistent label design for his wines, which includes a representation of his hillside vineyard property. Here I get more of a sense of the place where the wine comes from and what might make it special, even if the color palate seems a little bit over the top. Now if only Brian would make his web site a bit more polished…


WillKenzie and some of the other good labels in the region is consistent and understated, while showing some creativity. The label is two pieces of paper, and the rough slanted line reflects the hills that grow the grapes. I would say if someone wants to attract attention but not be repulsively ugly, you should keep things consistent, understated and try to deliver a message consistent with what you put into the bottle.

The Best

But I think the best labels are simple, plain white with lettering on the front.


Of course, it really helps that Shea has the most famous vineyard in the valley. Their grapes go into some of the finest single-vineyard pinots from other wineries and is highly prized. Their own wine label is in my opinion the best in the region. It is simple, elegant, shows you the key information. This may just be hooch cooked up by guys in overalls in the Oregon countryside, but their label says the contents are classic and timeless.



  1. […] although the wine label is one way to create a memorable impression, I think the foil capsule on the top of the bottle is an underutilized and memorable place to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: