Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Check out that label...

Have you ever noticed walking through a wine shop looking at the shelves that there are some very plain labels and there are invariably some labels that catch your eye? Every wine region has wineries who like to push the limits of the image they present to the people who will be buying their wines. The way some people will purposely shop for clothes that catch their eyes, there is a large group of people who choose their bottles of wine based on the outward appearance of the bottle.

Although it is possible to create appeal for a particular bottle of wine by choosing an unique bottle design, it is just as easy, sometime a little more practical and more cost efficient to become creative with the label design. This is especially the case when a winery chooses to create the label design themselves rather than have an outside company create their labels for them. With the emergence of a number of user-friendly computer programs that allow you to manipulate images, it is becoming infinitely more easy for a winery to create their labels which means that the creation of interesting label designs will see an upswing. In fact, the Ontario Wine Awards has a category in their competition that is exclusively about the label design of the submitted wines. In recent years, winners in this category have been Megalomaniac Wines, The Organized Crime Winery, Wayne Gretzky Estates, Flat Rock Cellars, Lailey Vineyard, Thirty Bench Winemakers, Norman Hardie Wines, Coyote’s Run Estate Winery and Pillitteri Estates Winery.So, what are the wineries looking for when they create their unique labels? It first needs to start with answering the question, “what image is the winery trying to present to the wine consuming public?” Well, the answers are as varied as the wineries behind these labels. Some of them are trying to position themselves as ultra-premium, over the top, powerhouse wines. Others are wineries that are made up of young winemakers who have a creative streak they want to express. One winery is trying to create as much buzz and excitement about their winery and their wines that they decided the best way to go is to create a series of unique labels that highlight certain aspects of the story behind the winery’s name. Here are just a couple of examples:

Just looking at these particular labels, we have one from Flat Rock Cellars, four from Ontario’s newest winery – Foreign Affair Winery, one from Wayne Gretzky Estates and three from the international line of wines available at Pillitteri Estates Winery. Flat Rock Cellars is widely known to be a maker of excellent wines, especially Pinot Noir and the quality of what is inside the bottle would definitely be consistent with the style of the label if someone were to pick up a bottle of this in a wine shop or local LCBO (if you are in Ontario). The wines from Foreign Affair Winery still have a to be determined feel to them. Their first vintage is released and it has been receiving critical acclaim but the vines are relatively young and there are a lot of factors that could affect the outcome of their wines. Just as an example which will affect all wineries, the 2008 growing season has been plagued by excessive amounts of rain whereas the 2007 vintage is being touted as the vintage of, in some cases, the decade and in some cases the millennium for Ontario – it kind of depends on who you are talking to. Our next label is from one of our recent celebrity wineries in Ontario – Wayne Gretzky Estates. They have chosen to play along with Wayne’s number 99 from his hockey playing years and have created a series of sleek, polished looking labels that compliment the signage at the winery and the bottles they are using. The silver of the labels gives me the feel of the ice that Wayne skates on when he hits the ice. Our final wines are i baci which are the international line of wines produced by Pillitteri Estates Winery. These wines are not 100% Ontario grapes and the labels give an international feel to what people see when perusing the shelves of their wine shop.

Since one person’s tastes in wine are different from another person’s tastes in wine, it is not easy to say which is better. From a personal standpoint, there is a time and place for just about every wine from every winery and where I may choose to use something from i baci or Wayne Gretzky Estates for a big party, I may lean towards an ultra premium winery like Flat Rock Cellars or Foreign Affair Winery for VIP guests or a special dinner. So, what are your thoughts? Is there a wine that you have gravitated towards in the past simply based on the label? What was the wine like inside that intriguing packaging? Would you buy it again?
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