A recent article on wine labels by Matthew Latkiewicz for Grub Street (here) is an amusing contribution to a fascinating area; the impact of wine label design and content. Labels are hugely important in consumer decision making. Given the short time deciding on a wine (under a minute on average) and the wine knowledge of most consumers, labels are often extremely influential.
Latkiwewicz acknowledges that price and scores inform his decision making but chooses to focus on labels (probably for journalistic and humorous reasons as much as for his declared preferences). In his attempt (above) to create a taxonomy he uses a proven approach a la Ann Noble’s Aroma Wheel and Sheila Burtle’s Whisky Wheel. I am not sure what either would make of the ‘A hole’ category though! I also suspect his tongue is firmly in his cheek…
A glaring ommission is discussion of the presence, or not, of a medal on the label. I would pop down to the local supermarket to see what percentage of wines carry a medal but its raining so I will guesstimate it is around a third. We know that over half the bottles entered in some competitions get a medal and that there is some evidence that awards across competitions are little more than random allocations, yet they have huge influence on purchasing decisions. Medals essentially weight the consumer decision towards the idea of the risk of purchasing that wine being smaller because the product has been ‘independently assessed by experts to be good’.
The statement that all French labels look the same is patently wrong but he is bang on with the ‘animals doing things’ observation though. The animal plus an adjective combination is well known to wine marketers so we have a plethora of pink wombats, leaping ducks etc. However suggesting that this is an American innovation is laughable given the that Cheval Blanc has been around for a few years.
Typeface is touched upon but anyone really interested in this area would be best off reading the wonderful ‘Just My Type; A book about fonts’ by Simon Garfield (pictured left). Gothic fonts used by producers in areas like Burgundy or Alsace communicate important but sometimes bogus ideas about heritage. Typefaces are powerful and although some producers can afford to ignore this detail most can’t.
Check out Matthew’s work including the wonderful ‘not about wine‘.