This is a bit of a takeoff on an article with comments on the CW board: http://www.chow.com/stories/10463. It’s not about cutsey labels, but about labels in general, especially for wines that are likely to make it to the wine lists of restaurants.
Two of my favorite wines (well “family” of wines) are Robert Biale’s, and Turley’s Zinfandels. I love the wines. Yes, they are BIG and concentrated, and I do not want to get into a comparison of other Zins, or even types of Zins. The problem that I have is with their respective labels. First, I admit that from a design standpoint, they are simple, informative and feature uncluttered designs. Also, none of these features any “animals” on the labels. They look nice, and refined on the shelf in the wine shops. BUT, try to read the labels in a fine-dining restaurant. Even with reading glasses and a flashlight, the foil labels are virtually unreadable, especially the vintage and the more important “Single Vineyard,” designation. On these two examples, there are often many to choose from and with some, the difference between, say a Turley Single Vineyard can be US$50/btl.! To read foil, you need a broad light source to reflect. Intensity, alone, will not do it. Magnification, alone, will not do it. Luckily, I can spot the general label designs across a darkened room, but when it comes to the “fine print,” it’s almost a crap-shoot.
Though they will never win any design awards, most Bdx. labels can be easily read, even in the darkest FR restaurant. The same can be said for the late Al Bruonstein’s Diamond Creek. I always wondered if Al didn’t run the labels off on an old Xerox machine! However, even in a cave, one could tell if they were getting Gravelly Meadow, Red Rock Terrace, Lake, or Volcanic Hill.
I’d like some of the designers to think about the end-use of many of these labels. If you’re doing some “mass marketed” plonk, then cutsey is OK. If your client’s product is likely to be held up by a sommelier, for a customer’s approval, make it easy to read, especially in dim light. And, foil and subtle embossing might look great at the Art Director’s annual awards show, but do nothing to help the folk serving, or consuming the wine.