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How art wine labels cut through the clutter

According to previously reported studies in db, packaging can make or break a brand, and a trio of recent releases show how eye-catching art wine labels can cut through the clutter.

Imagery Estate Winery Artist Series Collection wine labels showcase artwork commissioned by the winery for new releases.

Today, over 11,000 wineries vie for consumer attention in the US alone. Ultimately, eye candy wins out in the highly competitive wine industry.

Consequently, some creative wineries employ eye-catching art wine labels to cut through the clutter. A trio of recent releases illustrate this growing trend.

Universal appeal

For one Oregon winery, art wine labels invite instant, unspoken insight into their wines. “I think art is universally appreciated, and it taps into some aspect of our being in a fundamental and non-verbal way,” explains Christine Havens, Marketing Director for Lange Estate in the Willamette Valley.

The winery’s second label, Trouvère, showcases the work of Santa Barbara-based multimedia artist Mary Heebner. Its new Pinot Blanc contains a panel from Heebner’s series, Wide and Luteous Light. “The varietal lends itself well to our Artist’s Series,” says Havens. “In describing this painting, Mary talks about light as revealing visible and invisible forms.”

“I’ve always contended that Pinot Noir requires that you open yourself up to the experience of it,” says founder and executive winemaker Don Lange, who met Heebner and her partner years ago during an impromptu visit to his tasting room. “The more you attend to it, the more you come to understand about it. For me, this is the same when engaging with Mary’s paintings. The more of yourself you bring to her work, the more it reveals to you.”

Commissions and costs

Art labels also underscore a winery’s heritage. “Art is infused in every part of Imagery Estate Winery, so it’s more than just a “series,” says Stacy Weisgerber, Director of Marketing for the Sonoma winery.

Imagery Wine Collection artist series labels appear on every bottle in Imagery’s direct-to-consumer portfolio. Winemaker Joe Benziger and artist Bob Nugent initiated the series over thirty years ago. Currently, the collection comprises over 500 artworks, commissioned from over 300 contemporary artists.

Kara Lynae de Lambert, Imagery’s art curator, contracts notable contemporary artists to create future wine labels. Each piece must incorporate sister winery Benziger Family Winery’ iconic Parthenon structure. After every harvest, de Lambert and winemaker Jamie Benziger assign artwork to wine.

“Although we work with different artists and aesthetics, you will begin to see a pattern when you compare previous vintages” says de Lambert. “For example, the Wow Oui tends to incorporate a bright, fun work of art to reflect the wine. And the Aleatico Rosé always incorporates a piece with some hues of pink in it.”

“The artist labels strongly resonate with consumers, who visit the winery, have the chance to learn about Imagery’s art program firsthand, and tour the gallery,” adds Weisgerber.

Own voice

Finally, art labels offer a unique ‘voice’ for winemakers and their wines. Since I am not initially making the wine to represent the label, usually the wine has its own voice, and then I start thinking about what it is saying to me, and how a piece of artwork can accent the wine, and our brand,” says Mary Derby, owner/wine creator at DAMA Wines in Washington State.

A classically trained opera singer turned somm/wine director, Derby moved to Walla Walla in 1999 with husband Devin. There, the pair founded award-winning Spring Valley Vineyard in 2000. After Devin’s tragic death in a car accident in 2004, Derby took a hiatus. In 2007, she launched DAMA Wines, which means ‘woman’ in Spanish.

Blending art and wine is what DAMA strives to achieve in each bottle, while supporting other women artists,” says Derby, who usually selects the art together with her business partner, Judith Shulman. “When I look at our GSM artwork “BOLD” by Jacqueline van der Plaat, I feel it completely represents the Grenache blend. Both the blend and the label are bold in a fashion-forward way, plus completely feminine and quirky.”

Halo effect

What about the tangible impacts of artists’ wine labels? On paper, most art labels cost more to create. Pricey line items include artist commissions, artwork rights, and limited release label production costs.

Yet for winemakers investing in artist series wine labels, favorable consumer response far outweighs the overhead. Lange delights in “significant” customer response. “People seem intrigued, and delighted with Mary’s paintings,” he says.

“While we cannot attribute increased sales to the artist series,” admits Weisgerber, “We believe the halo of the winery and estate wines help drive consumer awareness of the nationally available Imagery Wine Collection. Both wines share this common link of artistry that starts with the first drop on the Imagery Wine Collection label, and ends with the finished artworks on the Imagery Estate Wines labels.”

“It is part of our brand,” concludes Derby, “And so, I would not say this is an artist series for us…it is who we are as a brand. We love seeing how people react to the label, the stories behind them, and, of course, the connection to the wine.”

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