Wine-marketing mavens have figured out that wine labels can speak to their potential purchasers in a way that says, "Pick me. I'm right for you." Enter brands such as Cupcake (feminine), Gnarly Head (masculine), and Smoking Loon (free-spirited). Are these clever wine labels working? These wine experts offer their viewpoint on the subject.
Joe Roberts, creator of 1winedude.com, says people are busier than ever before. "Not everyone has the time to learn how to navigate German or burgundy wine labels." Although some of these big brands can seem "a little kitschy," he says, the best of them can source "good grapes at low prices" and pass on savings. However, he predicts that their appeal will fail for Millennials, who are suspicious of "overly blatant" marketing.
Jonathan Lipsmeyer, wine buyer and sales consultant at Winfield Flynn Wines & Spirits in New York, believes that "cute critters or sassy names on wine labels" capitalize on wine's "air of elitism" by "raking in new, uninformed consumers" who might otherwise feel intimidated. These tactics might make wine more accessible, he says, but he'd rather steer customers toward high-quality, value-driven bottles from producers he trusts.
Elin McCoy, wine and spirits columnist for Bloomberg News, thinks that catchy wine labels are all about "selling you on the brand as part of your lifestyle," although she usually finds the results to be "quite boring." On the other hand, she points out that these wine labels can serve as a stepping-stone toward building a deeper interest in "authentic wine, not just wine that's made up for a demographic."
Jon Thorsen, the blogger behind reversewinesnob.com, has
built his reputation upon "thumbing my nose at bottles over $20." He acknowledges that sales of cheap, cute wine labels are thriving, but "in terms of the wine itself, it's a mixed bag." These bottles can be inconsistent from
one vintage to another, he says, since many wineries source their grapes "from all over the place," and the finished product varies.
Sean Carroll, marketing and communications manager for Sonoma County Winegrowers, notices a shift: Consumers no longer just want to taste and drink their wine. Now they're looking "to have an experience with it." He finds nothing wrong with clever brand names and wine labels that "try to engage people in a more meaningful way than they've done before," and says a gimmicky or flashy wine label doesn’t necessarily mean a winery is trying to make up for lost quality in the bottle.