What’s in a Label? Everything

From eye-catching to quirky, the art on the bottle draws people in


Wineries choose labels that say a little about the wine in the bottle while attracting the eyes of consumers.

Flyer Otter Winery’s labels feature — what else? — a flying otter. (Image courtesy of Flying Otter)

“When deciding on a label, we try for something eye-catching, tasteful, distinctive and memorable, all while creating a consistent brand image,” says Adrian-based Flying Otter Winery owner Bob Utter. “I contacted a graphic designer I found on the internet. I explained what I was looking for, and we commented back and forth until we came up with something we both liked. We’ve been using the same basic label since 2011.”

He says his winery settled on a flying otter to be the focal point for its labels. The design reflects his interest in aviation — in fact, he’s building his own airplane. And the “otter” came from his last name; his oldest known ancestor, Nicholas Mattson Utter, was the first “Utter” in America, he says.

Most of Flying Otter’s sales are direct to consumers, he notes, so the shelf appeal isn’t as important as the taste of the wines. He says the label will be more critical when the winery goes into retail distribution.

For others, labels and shelf appeal mean everything. Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor reached out to graphic design artist Brett Sanders when it set out to develop its wine labels.

“Labels are critically important,” Sanders says. “We want the labels to be fun like the brand, communicate what the product is and, most importantly, show a uniqueness in every product.”

Cherry Republic’s symbol is the black bear — a mascot of sorts. The company named the bear “Boomer,” and the design places the bear over a shield, representing Cherry Republic as an independent nation.

“When creating a new product or revamping an existing label, it’s important for us to creatively look at all of the objectives we’re trying to meet — who is most likely to buy this product, how is it different than any other products in our stores or similar products in other stores, how can we bring the joy of northern Michigan and cherries into the design and communication, what packaging is it going into, and so on,” says Sanders, who works exclusively for Cherry Republic.

St. Julian recently refreshed the labels on its Heron products. (Photo courtesy of St. Julian)

Another important part of labels is making sure they get refreshed from time to time, as Paw Paw-based St. Julian Winery did recently with its Heron products.

“Once we knew it was time to give our Heron line a refresh, we set about figuring out what the Heron wines represent,” says Justin Weeks, wholesale marketing director. “We also knew that we wanted a completely fresh design that looked nothing like the designs before it.

“The label needs to convey the spirit of the wine at first glance, whether that spirit is prestigious, valuable, playful, fun, accessible. Anything that a wine can be needs to be represented on the label so the consumer has insight into the wine before they purchase.”

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