Thoughts on how label design impacts sales.
That which we label a wine, by any other label would taste as sweet... right? (Apologies for the rip-off Mr. Shakespeare). The answer is, probably. But considering how many people choose a wine by its label, an unfamiliar wine might never get the chance to be tasted if the label doesn't compel a person to buy it. Chances are, if you placed two identical wines side-by-side on the shelf, but dressed them in vastly different quality and styles of packaging, one of the brands would greatly outperform the other.
Is this fair? No. If I were a winemaker would I be upset that my wine which took years of hard work and a small fortune to produce is being judged by a 4" x 3" piece of paper? Heck yes I'd be upset. I'd probably be that winemaker who forges ahead on their own, without a designer, dead set on coming up with a creative way to promote my wine that doesn't require spending tens of thousands of dollars on expensive labeling. Is that DIY attitude a viable option? Certainly! But probably only if you're stubborn and creative enough.
The fact is, we humans are visual creatures. Until that changes, I think we are stuck in this reality where in many ways, a wine's packaging is more important than the product inside (at least for first-time purchases). That said, I don't think wineries necessarily have to jump on the same bandwagon as everyone else by spending an arm and a leg on packaging.
With the rise in millennial wine consumers, I think there is a new opportunity to get creative with packaging; to do something less expensive and possibly more authentic to you and your brand. This is especially true for small production/cult winemakers as discussed in my post Big Ideas on a Small Scale.
I think future wine buyers will seek out novelty and embrace wineries that have the courage to let their unique personality shine through. As long as wineries are putting out a quality product and dressing it in a package that speaks honestly and intimately about the product and themselves, the customers will follow.
So back to the question... what's in a label?
I think the answer will always be... it depends on who's looking at it.