Even in the world of wine, appearances matter
So there you are in the Vinothek, staring at the shelves. So many labels; so many vintages… Now what? Irish poet W.B. Yeats would have understood: “Wine comes in at the mouth,” he wrote, but “love comes in at the eye.”
More than we often realize, it’s the label that seduces us. There’s status, of course, a perk at every price range. But there is also style, and evocative art and design have as much to do with our purchasing behavior as the subjective quality within the bottle. As competition for shelf space remains fierce, what is on the label can be as, or even more, important than what is inside.
So marketers, artists and designers have zeroed in on these intangibles to influence and cajole the risk-averse, liberally applying brushstrokes to imagery, fonts and color.
And why not? Chateau Mouton Rothschild has created a legacy around such seduction since 1945, enlisting both great artists (Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dalí) and the not so great (Charles, Prince of Wales) to enhance the label of their top cuvée.
No producer takes these design decisions lightly. Many stick to the tried and true, with images of a handsome estate or winery along with the proprietary name; others depict vineyard settings and landscapes, while a more recent, popular approach uses humor, eye-grabbing typography and/or fancy graphics to create a love-it-or-hate-it label.
So while Austrian wine producers have taken a mostly conservative line, there are some playful exceptions: like the “Grooner” (Grüner Veltliner) from Forstreiter in Lower Austria, helping British and American buyers over the hurdle of an unpronounceable name. Even some of the Austrian icons have taken this leap of faith, alongside a younger generation of vintners and marketers, presenting vivid and dynamic designs that hope to capture the eye of the wine lover.
In 1988, patriarch Josef Gager decided that the winery’s former traditional labels should change, resulting in a timeless geometric representation of the grape varieties in each cuvée and their associated hierarchy.
Chateaux-inspired, any name with Schloss immediately lends itself to a house motif, rendered so beautifully here. Not only is the wine from Schloss Gobelsburg superb, but holding a bottle in your hands certainly lends a classy air of confidence and esteem.
Few have used the flexibility of graphic design so effectively to create labels that are textured to the touch, both fanciful and eye-catching. Using the ‘Z’ from his name, the designs are simple for entry-level wines, and progressively complex, almost overwhelming you with spirals of text with the edition Z series, shown above.
Schlumberger Cuvee Klimt
Unashamedly tacky perhaps, but it works. The Schlumberger brand has the weight to market such a product – and to pay the royalties for the image. High-brow drinkers may turn up their noses but for tourists or red-carpet watchers, it brings an immense amount of pleasure.
Last, but certainly not least, this Wachau pioneer has undoubtedly created one of Austria’s iconic labels and brands. Recognized around the world, its ornate label depicts St. Urban, the patron saint of winemakers and vineyards. And indeed, the wine is equally complex, and every bit as magnificent.