by Paula Sugarman
We’ve got a lovely pinot label on our design table right now. The wine will retail for about $30 per bottle and there’s a lively message we want to wrap around the skirt of the capsule that expresses the winery theme. Anything goes in the wine world these days, but will writing on the side of the capsule cheapen the look of the package? Less is more when it comes to elegant design. Since “Exploration” is my middle name, I thought some research was in order.
A quick trip to Il Forno Classico, our neighborhood wine shop, yields some revealing information. Most high-end wines don’t have text wrapping around the capsule skirt. They choose a more restrained approach and limit their expression to the round top of the capsule. Many times the capsules are black, almost blending in with the bottle. But then…as always in wine…there are the exceptions. And when they do break the rule of silence on the capsule, some go for it in surprisingly unrefined ways. Let’s take a look:
Far Niente has their name slathered diagonally across the capsule. It seems like they forgot the label and capsule appear on the same bottle, kind of like wearing hiking boots with a cocktail dress. Curiously, it doesn’t seem to detract from the label…or the premium price, for that matter. Maximizing a branding opportunity in a more subtle way, Stags Leap uses a black on black treatment of their name on the capsule. Sonoma Cutrer does a nice job of coordinating their capsule color and typography with the wine label design. If less is more, than more is less (as perception of value, that is.) As an example: Sobon Family Wines prints their name on the capsule in easy reader size, clearly indicating a less than premium price range.
Then there’s Doubleback Cabernet. This gorgeously elegant bottle has every detail designed to the nines. The capsule is no exception. Tiny etched gold type wraps around the neck of the bottle defining the vintage date. It’s topped by a very short capsule, which allows the gap between the wine and the cork to be part of the design. The exceptional attention to detail tells me I can expect the same quality inside the bottle. Love it, I’m sold.
I admit it; I’m a wine buyer who makes all my purchases based on the wine label design. Would I buy a wine because of a cool capsule? Probably not. Would an ugly capsule keep me from buying a wine? Again, no. But a fully integrated package such as the Doubleback Cab helps convince me of the wine’s value and aesthetic. It will take a lot to inspire me to pop for a $65 bottle of wine, but like that pair of Manolo Blanic’s I lust for, this really cool package has got me going. When it comes to wine label design and high-end shoes, it’s often the details that seal the deal.
Paula E. Sugarman is owner and creative director of Sugarman Design Group, a California graphic design studio specializing in brand identity, wine label design and food package design.