Across the wine-producing regions of Australia, the US, Spain and Italy, an entire generation of winemakers are emancipating themselves from the design codes of French wine. Driven by the unbridled creativity of so-called table wines, the producers of more prestigious vintages are taking a new creative route. We look at the latest trends in the rich domain of wine labels.
Over the last 15 years, the international wine scene has re-appropriated the multifaceted image of its grape varieties. Exit castles and coats of arms: it’s now all about graphic variations where gold—an immutable marker of luxury—appears to reign supreme. For Microtiratges #4 from Maria Rigol Ordi in Spain—a numbered and limited edition of monovarietal cava gran reserva—design studio Atipus added a new evocation of the grape seed, the Macabeo. Printed on uncoated matte bulk dyed FSC paper from Avery Dennison (Fasson New Blank), the screen-printed label features a double hot stamping in gold and black (ADET).
The same appetite for mixing precious metal and ebony comes from The Label Maker (pictured, above) where Bulgarian graphic designer and calligrapher Jordan Jelev uses gilding on Ispira Nero Mistero (Artconvert), a silk-touch pure FSC cellulose paper with surface protection treatment Ultra WS.
Another example: Z1 premium Syrah from the Zelanos estate (Bulgaria): the letter Z is printed in gold Silk Foil on a surface hot-stamped in gold, while the number 1 is hot-stamped white, with the Zelanos Premium name appearing in high-density transparent relief varnish (Rotoprint).
The ultimate gold game comes from Californian iconoclastic Prisoner Wine Company’s Unshackled (pictured, above) For these three “Liberated” vintages, Australian agency Co-Partnership designed a ‘cryptex’ label as an invitation to emancipate oneself from conventions, and where gold plays a double game
Storytelling & arty variations
When not simply absent, labels are diverging from their original vocation and freeing themselves from the texts on back labels to offer new graphic territories of expression—be it minimalist or richly worked, conventional or gently disruptive.
For the Welly cuvée, a Cabernet Sauvignon with a production of 200 cases, Lail vineyards in California worked with agency CF Napa Brand Design (pictured, above). Artistic director Antonio Rivera created a watercolor—a nod to the Lail family’s agricultural heritage—featuring the young Wells Wilder Casten (sixth generation) donning her Wellington boots. Offset printed by MCC Label on craft-like paper (Fasson Bright White Felt WS FSC matte uncoated from Avery Dennison), the label bears Wells’ name traced in pencil on each bottle.
A radical change of direction comes from the haute couture décor imagined in Italy by Andrea Basile in collaboration with typographic foundry Resistanza for Cantina Camusi’s Taurasi DOCG. Celebrating the tradition of Irpinia wines, the label, like an embroidered textile piece, combines the motif of a cluster of grapes (d’aglianico) and the rose (vineyard sentinel) on Materica Gesso ultra WS Artconvert paper—a paper mixing cotton, recycled fibers and pure cellulose. Printed in flexography, the illustration is enhanced with gold hot stamping (La Commerciale).
Formats & cut-outs
Be they XS or XXL, with straight or worked edges, the label can tell different stories by its very dimensions. In addition to conventional formats, some are working to drastically redesign its contours.
One illustration comes from Davide Perfeccionista estate wine, a Galician godello from winery Enotourismo Acha, (pictured above) for which Spanish studio Roberto Núñez reinvented the neck label. Here, each of the 697 wooden labels that embellish the limited edition was broken off by hand from the carrying case, before being numbered with an ink stamp. Unique in their cut, each fragment reinforces a feeling of exclusivity, magnifying the emotion that can come from imperfection. Attached to the bottleneck with a waxed cotton cord, the wooden pieces feature the legal information silkscreened on the back by IPE.
For dinamite—a range of three sparkling wines from Portugal Boutique Winery—the team at 327 Creative Studio took inspiration from the collection’s name to play the anti-conformist card. While the back labels (pictured above), modeled on those from old explosives cases, display their vintage character, on the front, the bottles feature falsely minimalist enigmatic geometries: equipped with over-labels, they comprise a firing device that is simply “unpinned” to reveal three engravings depicting scenes from a nitroglycerine factory. In short, another way of thinking about an interactive label to re-enchant the consumer experience. Offset printing is done by Vox Artes Gráficas on Fedrigoni’s Waterproof White.
Increasingly recycled and FSC-certified, mostly uncoated and with textured effects, paper is the embodiment of a material that calls to be touched. Embossed or stamped fine paper, oftentimes with tactile varnish, it is worked in varying levels of thickness while displaying the triumphant virginity of bare fiber. Paper can also be associated with ‘third-party’ materials and sometimes, these materials—raw or hot-stamped wood, embossed metals either lacquered or hand-patinated—even beat it at its own game.
For Portugal's Trabuca Family Wines estate, Luis Marques, head of M&A Creative agency, innovated with a label in HMR (a resin and plastic alloy from VOX), printed in high definition for ultra-sharp detail reproduction that equates to laser engraving (pictured above). The material is available as an ornament, glued as an over-label on Fedrigoni paper for still wines, and expresses its full potential on a 2015 Grand Cuvée Brut Nature sparkling wine.
In conclusion, a nod to artisanal gestures: every year for the past 12 years, Buddy Creative (United Kingdom) has been sending its customers and suppliers wine bottles from small cuvées. On GF Smith’s Crane’s Crest Fluorescent White 100% cotton paper, the label of the latest edition of 70 bottles was blind embossed in-house on the agency’s press—a 1971 model Heidelberg Platen. It unfolds its almighty whiteness to welcome a single vermilion note: this edition’s name, Touch of Red (WithPrint).
The original article appeared in the winter edition of our sister magazine Formes de Luxe.