Maynard Keenan, Sam Pillsbury, Todd Bostock and other Wine Experts Give Pavle Milic Advice on Designing Wine Labels -- and Pavle Finally Names His Wine
In this occasional series, Pavle Milic (co-owner of FnB, Baratin, Bodega and AZ Wine Merchants in Scottsdale) will spill about his current mission to learn how wine is made -- literally from the Southern Arizona ground up. Today: What's in a name? And some advice from the pros on labeling.
Todd Bostock (winemaker at Dos Cabezas Wine Works) and I have been talking about the name and label of this wine since we started our collaboration. Naming anything that is close to the heart is taxing. I have three healthy, beautiful, precocious children and naming them was not easy. Needless to say, I've been obsessing over this.... What do I name this wine?
See Also: - Pavle Milic's Quest to Make Wine: A Quixotic Exploit? - Pavle Prunes the Vines -- and Keeps an Eye out for Rattlesnakes - Pavle Prepares to Harvest the Grapes and Reveals the Blend - Pavle Milic Harvests the Grapes for His Still Unnamed Wine
Stay with me because it's going to seem as though I'm detouring from the subject, but I'm not. I don't know what happens when we die.
I grew up in a Catholic household in Colombia. My father, Radisav Milic Jovanovic, was born and raised in Communist Yugoslavia; he was a die hard atheist. Nora Lopez, my mom, just believes in being a good generous person. My grandmother Jenny Lopez --yup, that's right -- is almost 80 and prays everyday and calls me "Mi Rey" or "My King." In Spanish we use a lot of charming superlative compliments.
At my age, the only consolation to the question, "What happens when we die?" is that we're all going to same neighborhood. One thing I do know with absolute certainty is that I am grateful to have lived to experience parenthood. Words don't pay justice when explaining the love for a child. You work hard so that your children will have more opportunities than you did.
Now I'm going to start sounding like a Jewish grandmother. What I'm trying to say is that I'm going to name this wine after my children -- "Los Milics" -- because I want to dedicate it to them and also because I have a delusional hope that one of them will get bit by the wine bug and carry on with the label. Now that I picked a name is time to design the label. I reached out to some wine industry folks that I respect and admire and asked them for advice. Here's what they had to say:
"Newbies probably are more likely to purchase based on whether the label appeals to their aesthetic sensibilities, no? It's the easiest evaluation to make about a bottle of wine.
"I've always likened this question to the olden days when I would browse in Tower Records and occasionally be compelled to buy an LP or CD based strictly on its cover. On the handful of occasions when I did this, I never was disappointed by the music itself. Three albums I recall buying under these circumstances are Bob Marley & the Wailers' "Uprising," The Boomtown Rats' "Tonic for the Troops," Prince's "1999" (all LPs), and Terence Trent D'Arby's first album (CD). If a wine consumer were to roll the dice on a bottle based strictly on its label and have this kind of good fortune with the wine itself, he or she would be doing very well indeed."
Kelly's advice: put your own name on it; and keep it simple. "You have to be able to look at it in five years and still love it as much as you did when you signed off on it," she says. "Hey! It's kind of like a tattoo!"
"I believe that [people] make greater assumptions about how a wine is likely to taste and overall quality based on the label. Just google "critter wines" and look at the articles written about wine labels with animals on them for an example."
"First and foremost and this does not go without saying, What's in the bottle must be quality. No packaging, however clever, will bring you repeat customers if the juice is less than mediocre. What a well designed label will do is stand out in the crowd when that customer comes in LOOKING for the wine. Whether it was a recommendation or just a wine they had one night but couldn't quite remember, a solid brand will help them find their way back.
"...Even assuming you've decided what kind winery you are (grower, producer, bulk wine blender, etc) there are a million paths and variables to consider. All I can suggest is that you make sure YOU are happy with YOUR label idea. All the rest of the designing stuff can be run by a bunch of so called professional designers. They understand brands and shelves and ads. But they don't necessarily understand you. So first figure out who YOU are (family, region, company, artist, etc) and make sure that's represented in your label."
"As the saying goes people eat with their eyes first. I believe the same is true with a wine. When a wine is presented to a table or approached by a retail customer on a shelf. The image or statement of the producer/wine is made instantly. The package is more important now than it was 20 or 30 years ago when most U.S. labels were "homages" to their European cousins.
"[As for specifics], avoid blue. Look at your label in a dark room. Bright room. Stick it in the middle of your Competitors on a wine shelf and make it EASY for EVERYONE to pronounce."
"I like to think what's in the bottle is what counts most. It's like marketing and PR...I think it can get people to try it once, but then it's up to the wine. That doesn't mean I don't think the label's important. Like the names I give the wines, I believe it needs to have an organic basis, have meaning. I wanted my label to say a number of things (whether people get it or not); individually crafted, from Cochise County and Arizona, suggesting Rhone style, and be a little playful too. And of course be appealing. If a wine's not mass produced I like that it suggests who made the wine and where it's from.
"...If you put a cat or a dog on the label people will buy it. Pretty much a reason to avoid it, although that's no evidence it's not a good wine obviously. Ditto names. 'Bitch' gets bought like crazy. But I don't see anything wrong with an arresting name or label. I just prefer mine to have meaning.
"Do something that means something to you and maybe communicates something to people who see it...after all, that's what it's for. It's called Authenticity. Do it right and it will work for years on all sorts of levels. You've already started right with the name."
"Develop a design that reflects your personality or the character of the wine. As far as design elements, the logo should be easily readable or identifiable even from a slight distance. Have fun with it!"
"A label must represent the things that are most important to a winery, a family and a vineyard. Bright colors and pictures of the "estate in the distance" aren't enough these days to grab someone's attention. I think people crave unique and informative labels as much as they desire quality in the bottle, they are codependent and ever entwined."
"Make it personal. A boutique small batch of wine should appear and feel intimate to the winemaker!"
"In Arizona, I think that especially once you pass $20 the label is less important. If people aren't familiar with the wine they are buying based on a recommendation or out of curiosity - in which case information on the label becomes key... more so than design.
"[The label] "should be attractive & well designed... people will discount a wine with an unprofessional label from Arizona faster than the Millennium Falcon can make the jump to lightspeed. Resist the urge to make the tiny canvas that is the label on a wine bottle the place to express your inner VanGogh... if a 3x4 format was the ideal size for showing great works of art, we'd see way more tiny paintings than we do." Thanks for the good advice, my friends. So now it's time to design the label with these last words from Todd Bostock:
"All labels that will be sold outside of Arizona fall into the realm of interstate commerce, which the Feds can regulate. The label will be submitted to the TTB (Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau). If you submit the label online the approval can go pretty quickly, as long as you are familiar with the rules.
"...They are checking to ensure there isn't anything too titillating on there, no outrageous claims about what the product can or will do for you, that the label isn't misleading in any way & that all of the required stuff, alcohol, government warning, producer's statement is there. Leave out a comma in the Government Warning, make the alcohol font too small -- and your label will bounce."
For now, every label is an inspiration. I am collecting a number of labels that tickle my fancy. Mr. Ty Largo will then work his magic and design it for me.
Tata, Until next time!
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