Designers and printers team up for award winning labels
Labels are an important part of marketing. The wine in the bottle obviously has to meet the taste test of the consumer, but the consumer might never give it a try without an enticing label. Labels have become so critical to the wine business that label competitions are now often held as part of wine competitions.
Last year, the Work Vineyard Napa Valley Sauvlgnon blanc label won the “Best of Show” and a double gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Choosing the right label designer is where it all starts, but choosing a printer can be equally important, according to Karen Work, co-owner of the winery with her husband, Henry Work.
In the case of the award-winning Work label, the label designer, Michelle LeBlanc of LeBlanc Designs in Calistoga, Napa Valley, helped the Works select the printer, Herdell Printing Co., of St. Helena. Karen Work said their choice was bossed on Herdell’s wine label printing experience, the quality of his work, rapport and communication and, of course, price.
Karen Work said the most important single consideration was wine label experience. Printers who have worked with wine labels in the past are familiar with special papers required, with the kinds of grains and textures that work on bottle curves and with overprint varnishes that resist scuffing during shipping, she said.
Another recent award-winning label is for Encore, a fairly new brand of estate-grown Monterey County wines from Delicato. The Encore label was judged “World’s Best” at the 13th annual World Label Association Awards Competition in Scottsdale, Ariz., during a meeting of the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute (TLM). The award represents what the industry considers “the best of the best” in both design and production technique. The Encore wine label won in the multi-process line category–one of the more difficult and complicated printing processes, according to a Delicato spokesperson.
The Encore label also received a gold medal for design at the 2003 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition.
The backstory to the Encore label is that it was designed not by a design agency but by a student at the San Francisco Academy of Art. Michael Osborne, an instructor at the school and founder of Michael Osborne Design in San Francisco, directed the competition. The winning label was designed by Mi-Hyufi Weo.
“We sought an unusual and elegantly unique design that expressed the remarkable quality and innovation our winemakers had captured in the bottle,” said Kym Johnson, Delicato brand director. “To be successful in today’s difficult and highly competitive wine market,” she added, “there must not only be great quality in the bottle, but eye catching, powerful imagery on the bottle as well.”
Johnson said great care was taken in selecting a printer, because of the sophisticated label design, which required perfect registration and state-of-the-art technology. Eventually Collotype Labels of Napa was the choice.
To learn more about what wineries should look for and expect from a label printer, we conducted an informal e-mail survey of the 25 label printers listed in the new Wines & Vines Annual Directory/Buyer’s Guide.
One of the questions we asked was what a winery should look for when choosing a printer. Again and again we were told that wineries should go to a printer experienced with wine labels, someone who can help select the stock, the inks and the printing process itself. It was also suggested that investing in test runs would be a good idea to be sure that what you have selected will work in your winery.
It is also important to choose a printer who knows how to work with designers and is familiar with the design process. Along those lines, we asked printers if, by and large, they believed designers really understood the printing process.
Not always, it seems. A designer might come up with a terrific label from a graphics point of view but if he doesn’t understand the label printing process, or understands it imperfectly, it can lead to problems in the printing. One printer said that he frequently sees designs that simply can’t be printed. (Many label printers also offer design services.)
On the technical side, with the introduction of flexographic printing and other breakthroughs, designs are being translated to print that would not have been possible 10 years ago. Digital printing has become especially important, with the image printed directly site on the stock. In fact, the process of selecting a printer depends a great deal on the printer’s response to the technical demands of the job. It seems these days almost anything is possible, even for short label runs for small production lots. “Just ask,” is the mantra.
One interesting development is the increased ability to work directly on the bottle, in a sense bypassing the label altogether. A new package design from Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Mendocino County features a copper dragon silkscreened directly onto the bottle. (For more information and a look at this package, see page 29 of the May, 2003 Wines & Vines.)
In a telephone interview, Green said that the new package cost is about $1 higher than his paper label costs. “It is more expensive than I thought it would be,” he said. “However, it solves the ice bucket problems and I don’t have to worry about scuffed labels or crooked labels on the bottle,” he said.
“What really got me away from paper labels is all the bottling line problems and hassles. I save a lot of time on the bottling line, which helps make up for the added costs, plus I’m not losing all my hair,” Green chuckled.
Green said the new package has been received well by both trade and consumers. The dragon design is silkscreened directly onto the bottle by Bergin Glass Impressions in Napa.
(Wines & Vines thanks those label printers who took the time to respond to our informal survey. Please see the current Wines & Vines Annual Directory/Buyer’s Guide for contact information for label printers.)
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