Jonathan’s blog…

Wine drinkers: what role does the packaging of your wine and, more precisely, the label play in your decision to purchase? Does it influence your enjoyment of the product inside?

To me, label quality is very important. I have tasted fantastic wines with labels of mediocre quality (cheap paper, unimaginative design, neither classic nor original), but I often prefer a bottle that is nicely packaged. After all, the whole wine experience starts long before the liquid has been poured into a glass.

If a bottle is attractive, with a label on thick, textured paper, it lends an additional dimension to its enjoyment. The tactile sensation of the fingertips running along a finely embossed, debossed, or foiled label is an additional sensory component to evaluating a product.

Rathfinny is in the midst of designing its label and, as with other new brands I’ve been involved with in California, it is quite an exercise to achieve an elegant, informative, original label that both respects tradition yet stands alone.

Famous Champagne house Veuve Clicquot is, interestingly, suing an Italian sparkling producer because of label colour, which Veuve Clicquot views as an infringement on their iconic image: the yellow-orange Champagne label. Clicquot claims that the design and, specifically, the colour are too similar and would confuse customers.

My preliminary, non-legal viewpoint from online label images is that the prints on the labels are distinct, with only one commonality: the word Brut. Particularly interesting is that this legal battle is being waged not against another Champagne brand (where one would think the real marketplace competition would be), but with what appears to be a small, seemingly innocent Italian sparkling producer.

At first glance, like in the image below, I see little room for confusion. But, as I browsed online for various pictures of either label, it is interesting to see how the difference in angle, lighting, and photography can influence our perception of the label. For online shoppers, it becomes increasingly clear how this may lead to consumer confusion.

The article I read on justifies my above opinion, as you will see that while both labels are a bright colour that would pop on a shelf, one is salmon, the other gold:


While the above appear to be printer’s proofs, when the Italian label is photographed in a different context (an actual label on a bottle in the real world), it’s easier to see possible room for confusion:

original Veuve Clicquot label
Cico Picariello label

That said, I can see two other Champagne labels whose label colour closely resembles that of Veuve Clicquot’s iconic yellow-orange one, depending on photography.

Has Clicquot taken legal action against those colleagues/competitors as well? Not that I’ve heard. But the text is totally distinct, and each label here has a unique image unlikely to be confused with Cliquot. It is most likely a different colour in person.

Clearly, the digital environment offers a different consumer experience than shopping in person: browsing the shelves, touching the labels, seeing the real-life colours and logos. It can influence our decision to buy, or not buy. Where a product might be confused online, it might be totally distinct in person, or vice versa.

However, I maintain that, in order to understand the actual possibility of brand confusion, it must be done on a physical label, on bottle, in hand.

I guess what I am asking is: can anyone send me a bottle of each so I can make a proper assessment?

Jonathan Medard – Winemaker