As a wine label designer and frequent wine purchaser, it takes something special to grab my attention in the wine aisle. Recently I came across a bottle of wine covered in blood red wrapping with skeletons, demon horses and generally foreboding imagery. Without a thought I picked it up for a closer look because it was unique in both texture and design. The wine is called Curious Beasts and is part of a line of wrapped wines created for Safeway.
This got me thinking about how wrapped wine bottles stand out because they are not very common. Probably because of the added printing and labor costs most sane wineries are keen on avoiding. But there are a few advantages to cloaking your bottle that are worth considering.
Wrapping Makes It A Special Occasion
I don’t know about you, but a lot of my wine purchases are picked up on the way to an event. Whether a dinner party, anniversary, birthday or special date, a bottle of wine makes the perfect gift. And what could be better than a spiffily wrapped bottle? I’m always up for anything that makes me look cool and trendy without any effort. Coppola Wines thought of this year’s ago when they did a festive pink cellophane wrap around their Sofia Blanc de Blancs. Not to mention a four pack of mini pink cans, straws included…but that’s another story.
More recently, wine and spirits label designers, Stranger & Stranger, thought many wine buyers would like to purchase based on occasion rather than vintage, varietal or region. There are twenty-two fun and striking designs in the series. I was surprised to find that Curious Beasts, the one that originally caught my eye, is actually my least favorite. The colors are a little too muted when it’s on the shelf with a hundred other wines. But if the most understated wrap in the line is getting my attention, they’ve done a great job.
Fewer Rules, More Fun
Because wrapping a wine bottle is considered packaging instead of labeling, the government requirements are less stringent. This offers a nice opportunity to think outside the box (or bottle) and let your brand breath a little more freely. A wrapped wine bottle will provide a lot more space to expand your brand story. Check out this Filirea gi, a homemade wine from Greece designed by Zafeiriadis Christos. The wrap literally illustrates the story of how their wine is made. Pretty hard to do in the confined space of a traditional label. From a designer’s standpoint, having such an expansive and unique canvas opens up all kinds of exciting opportunities.
More Fun Begets More Work
As you can see from the bottom of the Curious Beasts package, the top was tied closed with a black rubber band, about as simple as you can get, but looks great. There are a lot of simple ways to die cut, fold and seal your bottle wrap for ease of production, but all of them are going add steps and additional cost. Or if you’re small enough to do it all by hand, it will just add time. So it seems that wrapped packaging will only be reasonable for very large producers and the very small. The finished product is definitely fun but getting there is definitely more work.
Stranger and Stranger designed this custom sleeve to streamline production and keep wrapper looking sleek.
To Wrap It Up
Wrapping wine bottles will continue to be the exception rather than the rule, but that’s what makes it distinctive. With all the competition out there, it’s difficult to get your wine noticed. You may find that hiding it in an intriguing little package will bring the attention it deserves
How to Store Wine :: Insider Tip
In our travels, each journey yields a particular adventure that becomes the high point of our trip. Our visit to Spain last summer was no exception. My friend Ann took us to her family bodega near Burgos in the Ribera del Duero wine region. It was a delightful experience that can’t be found in any travel book.
We began the day in Burgos at the home of Tasito, Ann’s cousin by marriage. Tasito’s friend Emilio took us on a tour of the town and its impressive gothic style Catedral de Burgos whose construction began in 1221. It is famous for its vast size and unique architecture. Emilio is so passionate about this place that he can draw any part of it from memory.
From the Cathedral, we drove through rolling farmland that was once covered with vineyards until Franco decreed they be torn out. They were replaced with crops that could feed the starving population after the Spanish Civil War. We turned onto a country lane that revealed hills peppered with picturesque little buildings. It turns out they were bodegas…possibly the world’s tiniest wineries.
After lying vacant for decades, it became popular to own these bodegas and use them as tiny “hunting lodges”. In reality, we’re not sure how much hunting got done. Could be that the biggest catch might have been Tempranillo. Up the road a little way was Tasito’s bodega, which he has owned since the 70’s and has been making wine there ever since. Tasito and Ann love bringing friends to the bodega and sharing the culinary delights of Burgos, an undiscovered foodie destination. They have developed a ritual induction for first time visitors:
Step One – The Tour
Stepping into the bodega is like entering another century. No one is quite sure how old it might be…600, maybe 800 years? The structure is rock and mortar carved into the side of a hill. It’s the kind of place that provides inspiration for California wineries to spend mega bucks in emulation. But here we have the real deal… the cool and dank little room where grape crushing and winemaking actually took place a hundred or so years ago.
A massive tree trunk hinged on one wall spans the length of the building, providing the leverage to crush the grapes. This particular bodega, as small as it is, was one of only four, amongst the dozens in the area, large enough to have its own press. Crush was a community activity where all of the bodegas shared the four presses.
Tasito has been careful to maintain the bodega’s rustic charm. There’s a collection of winemaking gear from earlier times, leather bags for transporting the wine, bellows and bota bags. Through an arch and a dozen rough-hewn steps down, there is an underground cellar to store wine and other equipment. There are old baskets used to gather grapes and two small stainless steel tanks for Tasito’s Tempranillo.
Step Two – Don The Aprons
Back up to the main chamber, we are handed aprons to put over our clothes. We weren’t sure why we needed them, but when in Rome…well, it’s the same in Spain.
Step Three – Bring Out The Porrón
A porrón is a pitcher that is used to share wine. Porrónes are famous throughout Spain, probably designed to take the place of wineskins. They were originally made from ceramic, but now are fashioned from hand-blown lead-free glass. Tasito picks up the porrón and pours a thin stream of wine directly into his mouth without ever touching his lips. Ingenious, skillful! He doesn’t have an apron, but it becomes clear why the rest of us need one. It takes some time to master the technique. We pass the porrón around and giggle as we try to keep our aprons pristine, soon realizing the effort is futile. The tempranillo is cool and fruity, a combination of cherries and leather with a mild, smooth finish.
Step Four – Tower of Traditional Tapas
Tasito has been busy for a couple of days getting ready for us. Given the tower of tapas, he may have enlisted the help of his countrymen to prepare the feast. The people of Burgos are very proud of their culinary traditions. Ann brings out a delicious Spanish Tortilla, a thick omelet of potatoes and onions cooked to perfection, the best we’ve tasted in Spain. Then there are Olives, Queso de Burgos, Spanish Chorizo and Morcilla; home made blood sausage that’s a star product of Burgos. It’s made out of pork meat and blood, onions, rice, salt and cumin. Its flavor is robust and reminds me of another old world sausage, kishka, which my father used to make, origins from Eastern Europe.
Step Five – More Wine
The tempranillo brings out the best in the food. By now we’re becoming more adept with the porrón. An open fire that Tasito insists must only be made with grapevines, crackles on the stone hearth in the corner. He proudly presents a basin of grilled crawdads, a Spanish delicacy that has been marinating overnight in a peppery sauce. Ann and her daughter Paloma teach us how to eat the crawdads. David, with his Japanese heritage, seems to have an unfair advantage. His pile of crawdad shells is the biggest.
Step Six – More Food…They Are Merciless!
And now for Tasito’s specialty, lamb chops grilled over the bed of grapevine coals. Burgos is famous for its milk-fed lamb. In fact, Ann’s husband Juan Carlos, born in Burgos, is known for saying that he will not eat any lamb unless it has heard the bells of the Catedral de Burgos. We have a contest to see who can make their lamb bones the cleanest. In this category, our pile is bigger than David’s. Yum!
Step Seven- Walk
Filled to the gills with the best that Burgos has to offer…I just have to get moving. As a painter, I have been dying to explore the landscape since the moment we turned onto this tiny road. The sun is warm and low and these charming little bodegas look like they have been scattered on the landscape like a roll of dice. There is absolutely no logic or concern for the terrain. Now that we’ve been inside Tasito’s bodega, I can imagine what the others must be like. They each have their own personality, and I wonder how far does one cave run under another bodega. How did they know when to stop digging? Here are some photos to give a bit of a sample of what its like. I can’t wait to return.
Sometimes a wine tour is all about the wine. Other times it’s about the place and the experience you share with friends. These are the best kind. Ann and Tasito’s hospitality and their passion for this very special place is infectious. They shared their culture and an experience that we could not have found in any other way. It will always be treasured as the highlight of our trip to Spain.