Trendspotting wine

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Christopher Hayes of Forthright Strategic Design in San Francisco looks at trends in wine label design for 2016

As millennial wine drinkers continue to trade up in price and quality, the number of imaginative, non-heritage brands are on the rise as well. These new brands build their personalities on metaphors, sensations and just plain attitude. Personality-driven brands are no longer the sole domain of the 10 USD and under price point. What all these non-heritage brands employ are imaginative names supported by impactful and unexpected visuals. The following are trend categories into which the majority of new brands seem to fall:

1 Sophisticated horror

These dark and foreboding personalities are showing up in mass market brands like Carnivor, and in premium-priced offerings like The Prisoner. This trend has grown directly out of the black and red label explosion that began about five years ago with brands like Noble Vines 337 and Apothic Red.

2 Occult and mysticism

Borrowing from the imagery of Freemasonry and the occult, this category leverages the current interest in secret societies such as the Illuminati. On a recent trip to our local grocery store, we counted no less than three different brands whose label depicted illustrations of ‘The Evil Eye.’

3 Vintage poster typography

Leveraging the visual language of early North American advertising, this category relies on dynamically drawn display typography rather than an identifiable illustration as the base for its personality. This use of Victorian Era typographic embellishments on wine labels appears to have grown directly out of its use in the craft spirits category.

4 Single color etchings

Etchings on wine labels are not new, but as of late there has been an explosion of one-color labels using single-color etchings, woodcuts or illustrations. A hand-drawn illustration screams authentic and hand-crafted –and given the current interest in all things artisan, it’s easy to see why their use is on the rise.

5 Brown labels and copper foil

In recent years, rich, dark brown has become hugely popular amongst luxury brands in the fashion world. Not surprisingly, dark brown is finding its way onto wine labels. For an eternity, the only acceptable execution of foil on a wine label was either silver or gold. Reminiscent of the copper stills popular in the craft cocktail bars, copper is the new metallic quality-queue that’s showing up all over.

The common thread running through all the above-mentioned trends might be best described as ‘fictional authenticity.’ With these brands, like works of literary fiction, the audience knows in advance they are about experience a product of someone’s imagination.

When well executed, the personalities of these non-heritage brands allow wine drinkers to suspend their disbelief and take them to places they have never been before.

For more information go to the Forthright Strategic Design website at www.forthrightdesign.com