September 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

What's Popping in Sparkling Wine Packaging

As more wineries add a sparkler to their portfolios, they also aim to have that bottling stand out

by L.M. Archer

According to a 2017 Nielsen study, 71% of consumers don't know what they want when they walk into a store looking to buy some wine.

Nielsen concluded packaging is of vital importance to persuade consumers to buy a particular brand. And as sparkling wine continues to grow in popularity in the United States, those same consumers are now more likely to be looking for a bottle of bubbles. Innovative and attractive packaging could help convince them to pick your brand off the shelf.

For Maria Stuart of R. Stuart & Co. in McMinnville, Ore., the ultimate goal of any wine label is to create a personal connection between the customer and the wine. "When a wine speaks to a person, you've got a customer for life," Stuart said. Stuart worked with designer Andrea La Rue at Nectar Graphics in McMinnville to create the Bubbly and Rosé d'Or sparkling wine labels.

La Rue isn't the only designer delighting sparkling wine makers. Carrie Higgins of CRUSH Creative Packaging, the wine label division of Taylor Made Labels in Lake Oswego, Ore., is a 25-year wine industry packaging veteran. Higgins' tagline is, "There's drama in a package," and she said most clients venturing into sparkling wine ask the same questions: "How do I take my existing brand and create something lovely that's different? How do I make it stand out from my still wines?"

Higgins consults with clients on a whole host of technical aspects specific to sparkling wine, such as paper stock, embellishments and what she calls the "sparkle factor" - which makes a wine stand out on the shelves.

"A couple of years ago, when sparkling wines were just sort of peeking out in Oregon," Higgins said, "people were pretty conservative. "It was hard almost to tell it was a sparkling wine. It was almost like they were afraid of it, because we didn't really do sparkling wine in Oregon, right? To me, it's super fun and exciting to see people taking chances. … This is your time to take a little risk, get a little funky, be creative, have some fun."

Recently, Higgins collaborated on the packaging for a new Jackson Family Wines sparkling project called Lytle-Barnett. Higgins printed the labels in Lake Oswego, package design originated with Andrea La Rue of Nectar Graphics, and Radiant Sparkling in McMinnville handled the bottling.

"This is a stand-alone sparkling wine project," Higgins said. "It's three different sparkling wines being released all at one time, and they're using a paper that was specifically developed for sparkling wine - called Sparkling Asti by Fasson. The paper manufacturers are now actually making papers geared towards this fun sparkling-wine-specific market."

Higgins also sees more "ice bucket" tested papers, die cuts and adhesives for sparkling wines. "Paper, adhesive, varnishes - you have to make sure you're marrying a wet strength paper and a wet stick adhesive," she said. "Those two components must sync up, and they're very different. That's on the end line. But oftentimes there are conditions on the bottling line end of it as well."

Condensation and overflow can occur during bottling, so some wineries prefer to label afterward. Higgins advised doing some research on the bottling provider, its equipment, the bottling environment, the machinery, who will be applying the labels and when. "Those are critical questions to ask because if you don't, you could really risk failure, and could be looking at a reprint - more expense - if you don't have those discussions up front."

Heather Chartrand, chief operating officer of Watermark Labels in Lodi, Calif., concurs. "We are seeing a trend with traditional wineries adding a sparkling varietal to their product offering," she said. "Our customers have taken a strong interest in the metallic silver material because it adds a design element that sets their sparkling label apart from the other wine labels."

Watermark won the 2018 Avery Dennison Wine by Design contest at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, Calif., for design innovation utilizing Avery Dennison materials. Watermark garnered the award for its design for a sparkling rosé produced by Van Ruiten Family Winery in Lodi. The packaging included Fasson 56# MaxFlex Bright Silver paper.

"For the Van Ruiten project, we used a textured and elegant bright white felt material combined with embossing and foil to communicate the Van Ruiten brand message of classic design and quality wine," Chartrand said. "A silver capsule added continuity to the silver foil embellishments on the label and complemented the blush color of the wine."

Other ways to make a statement
Sometimes what's left out makes a statement. J.K. Carriere of Newberg, Ore., employs an unusual cutout label in periwinkle blue for its sparkling wine. "All of our labels have been a collaborative effort between my brother Jim, myself, and our brother-in-law Greg Maffei, who owns Grey Matter Design," said general manager Linda Crabtree. "The inspiration for this label came from a set of classic childhood fairy tales that we had as kids. The front cover of each book sported a picture plate that was seemingly a combination of a View-Master 3D image and a hologram."

Crabtree said her brother wanted to re-create a "looking into the bottle" experience via the cutout frame on the front label. The winery's signature wasp is visible from the other side of the bottle and scaled to take into account the distortion from the liquid in the bottle.

"There is a general rule that blue is not a desirable color to use in food packaging, but we threw that one out the window because we liked how the periwinkle blue played against the salmon-pink wine," Crabtree said. "The rest of the other decoration on the bottle is fancier than our other labels, in keeping with sparkling packaging tradition."

Custom labels are also proving popular in retelling a winery's narrative. Three years ago, Artesa Winery president Susan Sueiro launched project Galatea, so named for the Pygmalion statue brought to life in Greek legend. Working with designers Mucho of Barcelona and San Francisco, the team focused on visually communicating the "soul" of Artesa through its labels. As part of the Codorníu family, Artesa uses its labels to celebrate the owners' more than 450 years of Spanish heritage, artistry (Artesa means "handcrafted" in Catalan), each wine's distinctive personality and sense of place, and the estate's sleek, California-meets-Barcelona modern style.

"Our goal was to bring our beautiful estate and winery to life," Sueiro said. "Our sparkling wines have always been made under the Codorníu Napa name; Artesa is the name of our still wine portfolio."
In designing the revamped Artesa packaging, Sueiro said the company wanted to update the Codorníu packaging and add the vintage and estate vineyard designation while ensuring the new strategy was consistent with the other top vineyard-designate wines in the Codorníu portfolio. "The label's 'badge' shape is reminiscent of the metal number plates historically used in the extensive Codorníu cellars to identify rows of aging bottles," she said.

Augmented reality and laser cutting
Paragon Labels in Petaluma, Calif., offers a whole new dimension in labels with augmented-reality features that are activated with a smartphone app available for free for either Apple or Android devices. Paragon owner Jason Grossman said the labels can play a short video or animation and then provide users the option to purchase, read tasting notes or sign up for a newsletter. The app also allows users to capture an image of the video and share it on social media, email and text with their friends. "Since Treasury did such a good job with their 19 Crimes label, app people get the value of this now," Grossman said. "It's a selling tool, not a gimmick. Because how many wineries don't want to get a direct connection with a consumer? They all want that. Let's face it. And this allows them to do it."

St. Helena, Calif.-based Boisset Collection is using Out the Bottle labels for its Buena Vista wines, including the 2015 The Count red blend. While not a sparkling wine, the Boisset blend is one of a just a few U.S. brands that will be packaged with an augmented-reality label, which will feature a textured black crocodile pattern for the black label, gold foil writing and a photo of the famed Count Agoston Haraszthy on the front. When activated, the photo of Haraszthy will begin talking about the winery and wine. "This interactive label technology is another way that we are continuing to champion the historic past of Buena Vista - but now with a very futuristic technology that we think has the potential to transform (the sales end of) the wine industry, just as Haraszthy did by being a pioneer of California wine," said Boisset Collection communications manager Megan Long.

Paragon also boasts what it claims is the world's only Laserweb laser printer, capable of creating intricate, multidimensional labels, which has attracted interest from many sparkling wine producers. "We're getting a lot of interest (from sparkling wine producers), because if you have laser-cut labels, you're one of the few on the shelves," Grossman said.

Everyday exotics
But labels are only part of sparkling wine packaging. Barry Jackson of Equinox in Santa Cruz, Calif., produces sparkling wine for his own label, as well as for 17 other wineries. "A few (clients) currently use a crown cap as the final closure. One of those is changing to a cork and wire finish because he has grown weary of people asking to try his 'pet nat,'" he said. "The big difference in handling is applying two closures versus one. We can do about 15% to 20% more bottles with crowns in the same amount of time."

Jackson estimates the cost for crowns averages 5 to 10 cents each, cork and wire about 65 to 85 cents combined, and non-agglomerated Champagne corks approximately $3 each. He and his clients prefer unbranded capsules; the most popular capsule colors requested include black (55%), gold (40%) and silver (5%). Jackson does apply a neck label at the base of the capsule on his bottles, though his other winery clients do not. "One of the wineries we apply crowns for has used neck bands and strip labels over the crown, shoulder flashes, even purple ribbon over the crown," Jackson said. "This particular winery is known for eccentric packaging and labels."

Bottle innovations
Jackson also said the use of atypical bottle shapes is getting more popular with some of his more unorthodox clients. "One winery we work with uses a bowling pin-shaped bottle," he said. "Everybody loves it, thinks it's beautiful! Except me. We have to hand-riddle this bottle, because it does not work in our gyropalette."

Jackson and his clients use Saverglass, O-I Packaging Solutions and TricorBraun Winepak for more traditional sparkling wine bottles. He said he and his clients have been working with a lightweight bottle type from a European supplier and appreciate the reduced weight but noted, "With our less-than-innovative machinery, it's more prone to breakage, which is bad. It's a learning curve."

Saverglass sales manager Jennifer Smith said she has noticed extra-premium clients opting for more artful bottle designs with sylph-like necks, curvaceous shoulders and pronounced punts such as Champenoise Vintage, Champenoise Anassa, and Cuvée des Sacres. For more economical, environmentally friendly clients, Saverglass offers the Eco Design bottle, a standard-shaped, 835-gram bottle.

Portable potables, sparkling in a can
According to market research firm IRI, canned sparkling wine sales rose 43% in the 52 weeks through July, far outpacing the growth of wine packaging in glass, although cans are starting from a smaller base.

In this age of social media, canned wines prove highly Instagram-ogenic. Cans also prove to be an affordable, portable, non-breakable and portion-controlled option for concerts, sporting events and any other venues where bottles just don't work.

One winemaker jumping on the canned sparkling wine wagon is Chris Berg with Roots Wine Company in Yamhill, Ore. Berg, who has been making traditional sparkling wine since 2009, recently launched his canned wine project, with an anticipated initial production of 4,000 small (125-milliliter) cans to markets in California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Virginia and New York. "For sparkling it makes sense in smaller cans. The bubbles last a shorter period than traditional méthode champenoise," Berg said.

The pragmatic producer uses a base rosé of Pinot Noir, and outlines the canning process as follows: "Fermentation, filter, can. Pretty simple. We will do the labeling and packaging at our winery."

Roots ships the finished wine to Motherlode in Portland, Ore., for canning, and TAPP in Napa, Calif., prints the labels. Berg opts for scuff-proof plastic labels with plastic backing and market-tested glue adhesive. After labeling, he affixes four-ring plastic holders to the cans, and places them into 24-pack cases.

"Pricing is fairly similar at the end of the day," Berg said. "The cans cost $2.40 each versus $6.50 per bottle. With traditional (sparkling wine), by the time you add in the bottles, labor and packaging, it (costs) about the same."

Aside from cost, Berg points out the other benefits and challenges he's encountered canning sparkling wine. "Benefits are that it is quick compared to méthode champenoise. Challenges are that the wine has to be ice cold before injecting bubbles and force carbonation. If not, the losses will be significant and harder to keep in suspension."

Clearly, these sparkling wine packaging innovations prove as scintillating as the wines inside, helping engage and sustain consumer interest long after the corks - and cans - pop.

Print this page   PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION   »
E-mail this article   E-MAIL THIS ARTICLE   »
Currently no comments posted for this article.