Wine Capsule Design, The Details Top It Off

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.

3 thoughts on “Wine Capsule Design, The Details Top It Off

  1. Dave

    As a veteran somm, the top of the capsule is my clue as to which bottle is resident in which slot, and always appreciate a design that helps me get out of there faster with the right juice. And yes, I love the extra design consideration given to the capsule’s full perimeter which helps in setting the right tone and level of anticipation tableside. Bravo to you for that.

  2. Paula Post author

    Thanks Matteo, these are great ways to increase brand awareness. The closure is an important part of the package design. Where in Italy is your winery located?

  3. Matteo

    What surprises me is that more people don’t use the top of the capsul to communicate a message. In many locations wine is stored on it’s side making the top of the capsul an important communication tool. The Austrians were the first to do so by putting the Austrian flag on the top. Now you enter a place and know immediately that there are Austrian wines. The Collio region in Friuli is doing it as well by using a yellow top with the Collio logo written on it. Smart. My winery was founded in 1648 and to let the consumer know this, on our label redesign we are putting 1648 on the wine capsul

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