Hi everyone. By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the new sweet and dry wine labels as they show up on your shelves. They are the result of a lot of research that Carl and I did over the past two years, and we thought it would be a good idea to share what we learned and give you some info to share with customers if they ask you about the new artwork.
We made several trips to wine shops in PA and MD with a couple of Allegro sweet and dry wine bottles in hand. We looked at wines in every category and price range. What we found was really pretty shocking. Turns out our shiny colorful labels had a hard time fitting in on the shelf next to other wines – especially the dry wines. We always thought that they looked great side-by-side on our shelves, and they do, but when you put them in a retail environment, they nearly disappear. And here’s why:
We realized several years ago that our sweet wine labels were kinda dark, and could use some more color. So around 2012, I started pumping up the color and contrast across the board. This was definitely an improvement, but when we put the shiny bottle of Harmony on the shelf next to the other sweet wines, we realized that the shiny finish produced a glare, the ink coverage was so heavy that the label just looked dark and drab, and that the whole label was just too small. Everyone else had big bright labels with huge logos on them.
So we redesigned our labels using a much larger format, got rid of the gloss and went with a matte finish, added more white and bright colors to the illustrations, enlarged the logo, enlarged the logo some more*, and put a brief description of the wine on the front of the label so that the style of wine could be easily identified by the consumer (Harmony means absolutely nothing to someone who has never tasted the wine). It wasn’t a total re-vamp. We liked what we had, and we knew that we already had a fan base out there that looks for the “purple label with the viola” on it. We couldn’t change it too much, we just needed to bring it up to snuff so that it looked better on a retail shelf.
This was even more profound. Pay attention next time you go into a wine store. All of the labels are white or off-white, and really large. They all have some sort mark, like an illustration, seal or emblem (sometimes all three). The colors are limited to two or three. They feel nice. They use textured paper, and typically have some sort of embossing or spot varnishing treatment. We didn’t have any of that. We had a very hard time finding any other bottle of wine that had a four-color photograph of any size on it. In fact, I’m not sure that we ever did. And absolutely no one had an image that covered the entire label. And shiny? Forget it. Again, we looked dark, small and out of place.
So we set out to revamp the entire approach. We knew we wanted a big white label. We knew we wanted the logo to be bigger. We knew we wanted a limited color palette. We knew we wanted some sort of treatment like embossing or spot varnishing. That was easy, but the artwork was a problem. We wanted to keep the photography for continuity between the existing shiny labels and the new design, but we never found a solution that worked. Believe me, we tried. And then, it hit us. Use sheet music. We have a 4-page original composition (Themes and Variations for Woodwind Quintet) that was hand written by John Crouch, one of the brothers who founded Allegro back in 1979. You are probably familiar with the first page of it because we used it on the Bridge label for the past 4 or 5 vintages. Each of the new wine labels has a unique snippet from John’s composition. We tried to match the feel or look of the snippet with the style of wine: Cabernet Sauvignon is busy and complex, while Sauvignon Blanc is simple and light. It clicked immediately.
But it wasn’t enough. We needed an emblem. We both always thought putting PA prominently on the front label might be a bad idea. As most of you probably know, a lot of consumers think PA wine can’t be any good. But we are very proud of being a PA product, and of how long Allegro has been in business. We wanted to include that information, but it had to be subtle. We developed the emblem, but we needed artwork. So we went back to Tim and John Crouch’s labels from 1980-2000. They used the outline of a grape leaf as the prominent image on their labels (see attached photo). That’s the same leaf that is in the center of the seal.
And of course, the logo is a lot bigger. A lot bigger*.
The new labels tie the present to the past. They feel good. They have lots of soft textured paper with subtle embossing on the logo and emblem. They have deep rich colors with scarlet varietal text that really pops. They are bright, bold, simple and easily identifiable. They are relevant, and they look and feel like a dry bottle of wine is supposed to look and feel.
The "independent craft winery" line is a nod to microbreweries across the US. If a brewery produces less than 6 million barrels a year, and less than 25 percent of the brewery is owned by someone other than the brewer, they qualify. We align with, and respect that approach to brewing. Unfortunately, there isn’t an organization like that for wineries, so we made up that line and added it to the label. So far, not a single person has commented on or asked about it.
So we hope you like the new labels. Yes, we understand that it’s a little more difficult to tell them apart from one another, but that’s pretty standard in the industry. I think we’ve come up with solutions that look good both in the tasting room as well as out on the shelves in grocery stores and liquor stores. Designs reflect the quality of the wine and tell a story at the same time. Designs that we can all be proud of.
If you or any of your customers have any comments or questions regarding the label designs, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to email me!
*In the design world, there is an ongoing joke about “make the logo bigger”. Graphic designers hate it when their client’s ask them to do that, and believe me, it happens all of the time. Well, in this case I could not fight the overwhelming evidence. The logo on nearly every bottle of wine was at least 2 or 3 times larger than ours was. Here’s one of my favorite YouTube videos on the topic – you won’t be sorry you watched it – I promise.