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Behind wine bottle marketing...What goes into a label?

Erin O'Reilly - Certified Specialist of Wine

example of a wine label

Spend any amount of time looking at wine bottles on a store shelf, and you’re likely going to ask the question: How much of this is just marketing? Well, it’s likely quite a bit, actually. Wine label design is marketing at its finest. Check out the many ways savvy marketers influence your wine buying decisions.

What is required on a wine label?

Before getting into the design, producers need to ensure that they follow certain wine label rules when it comes to their wine labels. These wine label rules are set by the Alcohol Tobacco and Trade Bureau, or TTB for short.

The wine label must include the following:

  • A brand name
  • Class or type of wine (e.g., fortified or sparkling)
  • Percentage of alcohol (ABV)
  • Health warning statement
  • Sulfite disclosure
  • Place of origin
  • Net contents (volume)
  • Address of bottler/producer

shelves of wine with different labels and designs

What goes into wine label design?

Large producers typically work with marketing firms to design labels that appeal to their target market. These firms conduct extensive market research and consider all aspects of the package, from the bottle shape and color to the color scheme, font, and even the capsule that goes on top of the bottle. These label designs have an impressive level of detail. For example, a firm may recommend using the same font that’s used on American money, Banknote font, so that you subconsciously equate the wine to value. These producers tap into psychology to influence your buying decisions.

Images are another wine label marketing tactic.

New Zealand wines often use landscapes or natural imagery to evoke our subconscious belief that New Zealand has a pure and natural landscape. They are leveraging New Zealand as a soft brand. Buyers mentally transfer this pristine image of the country to the wine – it must be pure and natural as well!

Label Design for Boutique Wines

Of course, smaller boutique producers don’t have the same resources as large producers to research their market segments and design wine labels that can influence our buying decisions. These producers may opt to work with local artists or a branded family design that reflects their vineyard holdings or family heritage. They may even have a no-frills label for their wine brand.

woman reading a wine label

Shopping for Wine: Wine Label Designs


Look for wine bottles that have a sticker or seal that proclaims the wine is a winner. This means that the producer submitted the wine for evaluation in a wine competition. These seals are often a way to help consumers decide between bottles when they're not really sure what they're looking for. Aha! It has a medal! It must be good!


Color can help a bottle of wine stand out on a crowded shelf. Bright colors that pop are more common in supermarket wines where a frazzled parent is trying to get through the store quickly and doesn't have a lot of time to think about the different wines in front of them. Canary yellows, candy pinks, and vibrant reds pop out and help you make that split decision between the different bottles.

Dark, brooding labels hint at danger. We subconsciously equate the labels with risk-taking. Who doesn’t want a little mysterious adventure on an otherwise quiet Friday night?

Spend Time Looking at Labels

If you really want to get a sense of how wine labels work, spend time looking at different labels in your favorite wine shop. Ask yourself: How does the label stand out? Who’s the target market based on the label design?

Always remember, the label has little to do with the wine quality inside the bottle!

Wine marketing is big business. Whether you’re buying a bottle from a national producer or a boutique bottle from a family estate, the wine inside is what’s important. Be willing to take a chance on a less-flashy label. Or, take all the pressure off and join a wine of the month club like Gold Medal Wine Club! With wine experts hand-selecting each featured wine, you know you're getting a quality selection, regardless of what the labels look like! Who knows, you may just find a new favorite!

Erin O'Reilly Author Bio Image Author Bio: Erin O’Reilly, Certified Specialist of Wine, is a wine writer and educator. She pens her work from Monterey wine country where she raises a glass to the growers and producers crafting wines that transcend time.