Wine Label Design Cliches to Avoid or Embrace

winery label design

By Courtney Holmes

Wine Label Design

We’ve all heard the phrase, “never judge a book by its cover,” but in the world of wine, does this also apply to label design? Some might say that all that matters is what’s in the bottle while others have a different opinion. Beyond the obvious function of providing vital product information, wine labels attract attention and distinguish wine from competitors. They provide a strategic means for wine makers to connect with new consumers by reflecting the quality of the wine within their bottles.

The Millennials

Because the Millennial Generation—now, the youngest generation and one of the most dominant consumer market segments in the United States in terms of purchasing power—continues to penetrate the wine market, wine labels are now more than ever used as a marketing tactic to draw in potential buyers. The aesthetic appeal initiates the first purchase and the quality of the wine initiates a second.

Although numerous winemakers survive and thrive on the equity of their brands, the best strategy to draw in new potential buyers is to invest in a professional brand identity and wine packaging design. This involves research to ensure that what is communicated on the shelf is not overused or unoriginal in thought.

Most wine label design clichés fall under 3 categories:

  • format
  • imagery
  • typography


When deciding on format, think about how it will fit into your concept and how that message can be made unique to your audience. For example, Montes Wines’ Kaiken uses a short horizontal rectangular label to call attention to the graphic of the Andes Mountains where the grapes were grown. However, vertically rectangular or square labels are very common in the wine market. They allow for either simple, straightforward communication or complex, highly communicative traditions to meet both marketing needs and legal requirements. That said, thousands of labels are printed on rectangular stock—especially because it tends to be low in cost. Since the rectangularity is part of the Kaiken label concept, it not only becomes necessary to print on rectangular stock but also distinguishes the wine.

wine label cliches


Terroir expressive imagery is also a common find when browsing the wine isle. This includes:

  • Fruit (esp. grapes)
  • Vines
  • Estates
  • Barrels

It is paramount that distinction is prominent on your label because these components are involved in most (if not every) producers’ process. So, how can you express in your design that your fruits, vines, estate, or barrels are different? Nowadays, winemakers lean towards special printing processes. For example, Francis Coppola’s Votre Santé labels create delicate leaves and curling vines through intricate die cutting.

In more recent marketing campaigns, producers have turned to animals. These “critter labels” are memorable, approachable, and easy to ask for when you walk in the store. Though, an increase in critter labels has caused a zoofication of the wine isle that may otherwise repel wine consumers as these labels can be seen as gimmicky or generic. Therefore, the same principle of fitting content to concept in format applies to imagery. You can’t simply slap a mascot on your wine; it has to mean something or represent quality. An example of this can be found on Yellow Tail wine labels. Rather than depicting the grapes grown throughout South Eastern Australia, the Casella family used a wallaby, a smaller cousin of the kangaroo that has a golden tail. This was intended to communicate a quality wine that’s fun, flavorful, friendly, and bursting with a personality all of its own.

winery label design


Winemakers often use script or all caps serif typefaces to elicit a vintage/classic feel, but this may not be characteristic of your wine. So, what attributes about your font choices separate your label from others while expressing the concept and quality of your wine? Garguilo Vineyards takes on a complete typographic approach that embodies the wine’s character—complex with seamlessly integrated layers of brooding dark fruit.

wine label design

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