How much effect does the label have on your decision to buy a wine? A fair bit, I’d imagine – and, despite being more concerned with the contents than the appearance of a bottle, the same applies to me as well.
The label can change your perception of a wine, too. To take one example, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Most Wanted range, but its recent rebranding with a strikingly colourful selection of street-art labels designed to promote diversity and inclusivity in the wine business made me feel I should give it another try. And it turned out that I was quite impressed by the unusually characterful pinot grigio in today’s pick with a label designed by Hackney-based street artist Jelly J. I’d also buy the malbec, and either would be great to take to a party.
Jazzy labels are, of course, nothing new, but they are still less widely used on wine bottles than they are on beer. And they can sometimes contribute hugely to a brand’s impact: the success of 19 Crimes, for one, must owe a lot to the striking, augmented-reality labels (download the app, and you can hear the character on the label tell their story). I still find their red way too sweet, though.
It’s also more common for new-world wines to feature unconventional artwork than the classic European ones, which tend to appeal to older wine drinkers. “Brighter, bolder, more daring labels certainly help attract younger consumers,” says Ben Cahill, wine buyer at the Co-op, which stocks a fair few in its range. “And it’s more difficult to ‘reinvent’ the labels on wines from the classic regions; for instance, people have a preconception of what a chablis should look like, and often find reassurance in familiarity.”
But, interestingly, innovative labelling doesn’t apply only to inexpensive wines. “Almost the same rules apply to the top and bottom ends of the market,” says Neil Tully, founder of one of the leading modern label designers, Amphora. “People who are super-confident about wine are willing to part with money on something disruptive and creative, and with inexpensive, entry-level wines, it’s not a major risk, either.”
Tully reckons we’ll be seeing more campaigns such as Most Wanted’s. “Wine labelling is inherently quite conservative, but I think there will be the kind of incremental change we saw with screwcaps. At first, they were disrupting. Now, you see them everywhere.”
Five wines with a new look
Most Wanted Collective Pinot Grigio 2020 £7 Sainsbury’s, £7.75 Morrisons (though you may find only the Collective edition in store), 12%. Much more personality than yer average pinot grigio, both inside and outside the bottle.
Shhh. It’s Riesling 2020 £6 Co-op, 11.5%. Fresh, fruity and with a label that boldly tackles consumers’ prejudice against this grape.
Mimo Moutinho Portuguese Loureiro 2020 £6.49 Aldi, 11.5%. A light, fresh, spring-like white from a snazzily-labelled range of Portuguese wines.
The Blind Spot Pinot Meunier Yarra Valley 2021 £12.95 The Wine Society, 11%. The striking graphics highlight the unconventional use of a grape more normally found in champagne. A gloriously fragrant, light red – or is it a rosé? You decide.
Three Crows Bridge Pa Hawkes Bay Syrah 2019 £30 The Wine Society, £35 Oxford Wine Co, 13%. A wonderfully expressive syrah from New Zealand, made as a tribute to the northern Rhône. Proof that expensive wines don’t have to have classic labels.