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Sunday Serendipity
Wine Label Contest Winners

By Charles Olken

Earlier this afternoon, I was looking through a just-arrived book from the Spanish firm of Gonzalez-Byass celebrating that family’s 175th Anniversary in the wine business, and I was particular engaged by some of the old, elegant and often aristocratic labels. I remember thinking, “I want that one” or “that one is pretty chintzy” with its gold medals filling every nook and cranny not reserved for the name of the wine itself. But, no matter whether created with timeless understated elegance or with the pastiche of the day, the labels were a joy to examine.

Today’s blog, however, is not looking backward for inspiration. Today, we celebrate the best in new label design. And like the old labels of Gonzalez-Byass and the pictures of Uncle Pepe, after whom the world famous sherry, Tio Pepe, is named, today’s labels run the gamut from the elegant to the ultra-modern, from understated beauty to “look at me now” energy. There is no great unifying theme to these labels other than that they are a delight to the eye and add a special luster to the bottles they adorn.

The old adage, drink wine not labels, is a truism not to be ignored. But, I will tell you an Olken family secret. We also drink labels from time to time. We like pretty things, and when a handsome label announces a fine wine, we are delighted to put that bottle on the table. Makers of sparkling wine both in Champagne and here understand that equation, which is why their bottles of expensive bubbly are often the most handsomely crafted you will find.

The labels that have emerged from this year’s International Wine Label Design Contest, sponsored by The Volunteer Center of Napa Valley, range from wonderfully professional to whimsical. The winners fall in the following categories: Successful Innovation, Dramatic Graphics, Classic Style and Labels Not In Production. The overall winner, Le Poisson Gris, by Ana Rosales of New York for an African wine, came tops in the both of the Innovation and Drama categories. The Nine Hats label won for Classic Design and is my personal favorite. It has an elegance that will transcend time.

The roster of international judges was headed by the ever-energetic Paul Wagner, co-author of the widely used book, Wine Marketing & Sales, wine marketing instructor at Napa Valley College and head of the international wine consulting agency, Balzac Communications. Wagner comments that “There is no question that labels play a critical role in wine marketing, and this competition brings attention to those who are really good at it. The winning labels were fun, dramatic, creative, and most of all, effective!” A team of international wine marketing experts formed the judging panel.

A call for entries for the next competition will go out in spring of 2011. The proceeds of the competition, which are in the form of submission fees, go directly to benefit the Volunteer Center of Napa Valley. Over the past year, the center has provided an estimated $500,000 in volunteer labor to benefit local non-profit organizations.



Label It Art?
by Mike Dunne
Posted on:12/12/2010 8:56:56 PM

Charles, while the Le Poisson Gris is fresh, dramatic and amusing, and the Nine Hats has wit, are the other labels you posted winners, losers or personal favorites? Aside from the Abdon #1, which is both wry and direct, the others are more derivative than original. One harkens to the early work of David Lance Goines, another suggests the labels of Iron Horse and Sterling from two or three decades ago, and a third must have been on a homemade wine. I'd like to learn more, but you are ahead of the International Wine Label Competition, which has yet to post the results.

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/12/2010 9:19:44 PM

Hi Mike-

Poisson Gris and Nine Hats are Gold Medal winners. Black Ice is the third Gold Medal winner. The others won Silver or Bronze.

Send me an email through the Contact button at the top of the page and I will forward the incoming email to you--although truth be told, it is does not offer a lot more detail.



Nine hats
by Michelle Poole
Posted on:12/29/2010 8:37:40 AM
Thank you for the post, I am the artist and designer that created the nine hats label. The hat was drawn with black pencil in Arches. There are nine different blends, the label stays the same on all of them, but the hat moves position depending on the winemaker.

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