Something is going on. It has been on my mind for a while, but it has taken me some time to gather enough evidence to substantiate that this "thing" is surely a trend and not just some imagined fancy of my design-oriented mind. What I'm referring to is the fact that collectible cover marketing has collided head on with wine label design. Recently there has been an onslaught of new wines that boast different labels for the same product. So much like you'd be able to find 24 copies of the same issue of TV Guide with different covers, you can now also find your favorite wine with three (or more) different labels.
Sounds smart, doesn't it? Allow the consumer more choices, and they're much more likely to choose the one that best reflects their personality, sentiment, or favorite color. Didn't the Apple do something a little like this by creating iMac colors?
Now it sounds a bit silly, doesn't it? And this doesn't even take into account the bevy of problems encountered when launching such a product. Check out Harper's (the British one) for a small anecdote (scroll down to the heading "Trouble with Customs") about the legal complications of such design choices.
And forget about brand identification. To take a product that so many consumers solely identify by the label and offer multiple versions where the label differs is simply confusing. Imagine purchasing the wine online (where one label is displayed) only to receive what looks to be a completely different bottle. Things get even messier if the wine hails from a country other than the U.S. or Australia. It took me a while to figure out that these three (there's also a fourth with a scarecrow on it) Gaia wines were the same:
Other wines that have taken to this trend include the Italian producer Belisario; they have at least four labels for their Verdicchio di Metalica that I've personally counted. Red by St. Francis in California has 12 different labels!
All complaining aside, I do like labels from an aesthetic point of view; I love seeing the various iterations. I just wonder if it's worth the effort. Until we start framing labels and seeing them displayed in museums, I don't think it is.
Scott Rosenbaum is director of operations for the International Wine Center and wine buyer for the retailer DrinkUpNY .
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