The label above upsets me. It is sloppy and thoughtless. A surplus of old labels inspired this winery to print a conspicuous black rectangle over last year's vintage; the new vintage is forced into the remaining negative space. Wine bottles should be recycled; their labels should not.
The folks behind this label are lazy. I have seen this redacting, as well as the use of vintage-concealing stickers, perpetrated too often. It is as if an expiration date were crossed out and rewritten; it looks like a mistake has been made. It conveys cheapness and ineptitude, which is a shame given that the wine is rather tasty. A label should be an invitation to the pleasures of a wine, or at the very least inoffensive.
This label, on the other hand, offers a similar but near-seamless execution. It took me a while to realize what was going on here given the awkwardness I had come to expect from the first label. A blank space was left in advance so that the vintage (and alcohol percentage and bottle size) could be printed every year over the basic label. This approach reuses the fundamental design without actually recycling the label. It is still a little disjointed as the color of the vintage is different from the other font colors, but this label's method of dealing with vintage is better than the one that came before it.
Exhibit #3 (above) is a simple but thoughtful solution: a two-part label. The bottom stays the same every year, while the top changes with each passing vintage. The design is elegant and effective. The vintage on the neck of the bottle doesn't appear out of place or out of style. The vintage is given it own spotlight in a way that seems expected rather than haphazard. This solution is so successful that I didn't even think of it when first writing this piece; it was so “natural” that a friend had to point it out to me.
As illustrated, not all solutions to the vintage dilemma are created equal. They require foresight and a bit of creativity. Forward-thinking design shouldn't look backwards. Planning should be evident in execution. A design that inspires a “why didn't I think of that?” rather than a “my kid could've done better,” reaction is proof of a job well done.
Scott Rosenbaum is director of operations for the International Wine Center and wine buyer for the retailer DrinkUpNY.