The design of wine labels- uncorked

Not everyone is a wine expert, and sometimes we need a little help in choosing a bottle. Do we ask for help? Occasionally, but usually we just look at the label and find one that looks best, or sends a message we respond to.

Wineries are constantly looking for ways to stand out. Most people buying wine aren’t at a winery – they’re in a grocery or liquor store.  Selling a bottle before someone has tasted it is not easy. This places a lot of pressure on the wine label.  The design needs to grab the attention of the buyer, convey certain vital information about the wine (type, red or white, grape varietal, region of origin, surgeon general warning, health information, etc.), and tell a story that aligns with the experience the buyer is trying to create. The experience created arrives from sensory design, which is design that evokes an intuitive response by engaging one or more of the senses.

Modern wine labels are designed to stand out.  A perfect example is Fat Bastard, a wine from Southern France that uses its unique name and a sitting hippopotamus to play to the idea from their website that “most people bought a bottle because of the name and returned to buy cases because of the quality.” This technique has worked very well for Fat Bastard, which is now the best-selling French Chardonnay in the United States.

This doesn’t mean that all wineries should rename their wine and put an unexpected animal on the label.  The wine label must align with the brand and positioning of the producer.  The label may have a traditional French chateau, indicating the region where the grapes were harvested. Or it may have images of the family that created the wine, with the different generations of family members indicating the maturity and age.

Next time you’re choosing a bottle of wine, maybe you’ll notice that the label has a bit more influence on you than expected. Or have you already noticed? We’d love to hear about you favorite label!

Wine Tasting- A sensory experience

Tasting wine is a truly sensory experience.  From the moment the cork comes out of the bottle with a faint “pop,” to actually drinking and tasting the wine, all the senses are engaged.

First, you hear

Once you’ve chosen your bottle of wine and you’re ready to enjoy it, it’s time to open it! The first sense is stimulated – your hearing.  Your sense of hearing is continually stimulated as the wine is poured into the glass.

Second, you touch

The wine glass influences the temperature, bouquet, taste, balance, and finish of the wine.  There are many different types of glasses, but generally glasses with smaller bowls are for white wines, larger bowls are for red wines, and flutes are for sparkling wine and champagne. Riedel is a company known for their extensive collection of wine glasses and the science behind each design.

Then, you see

The third step to wine tasting is checking the color and clarity of your wine. It is easiest to distinguish color on a white background.  When you are determining color, look past just red and white, because a closer look can enable you to gauge the grape and age of the wine.  Red wines tend to lighten as they age, whereas white wines become darker in color.

When tasting, you can also look at the “legs” or as the French say, the “tears” of the wine.  When you swirl your wine in your glass, the rate at which the legs fall is a result of the Marangoni Effect, and can help determine alcohol content of the wine.

Next, you smell

When you smell your wine, you first take a quick whiff and gain a first impression of the wine.  Next, put your nose into the glass and take a deep breath.  You may smell oak, berry, tobacco, pepper, vanilla, or many other scents.  Then swirl the wine again, and sniff.  You may identify more scents than you did the first time!

Don’t underestimate the power of smell, because what you smell greatly influences what you taste. A master sommelier once said, “You can only taste 5 things – bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and umami – but the number of things you can smell is endless.”

And finally, taste

First, take a small sip and swirl it in your mouth.  Different areas on the tongue are sensitive to different types of taste, and incorporating them all enables you to experience the full taste of the wine.  After the first impression, your palate gets the chance to distinguish the taste.  Finally, after you swallow the wine you are left with the finish.  This is the lasting impression the wine has in your mouth, the taste you continue to experience even after the wine is gone.

We hope you enjoyed this break down of the senses and wine tasting, and we’d love to know your thoughts and comments!  If you liked this, there will be more, we will be writing soon on how label design and brand image influence your purchasing decision and maybe even how you perceive the taste and quality of the wine. CNN also has added a great addition to their Eatocracy blog- a series called Leggy and Luscious that’s all about wine tasting and experience.

Special thanks to John Banquil, Regional General Manager at Ling and Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill for his input and help writing this article!