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Much more than just labels

In recent months, several estates, including some of the big players, have revamped the labels on their bottles. Vinsmoselle, Bernard-Massard and Domaine Claude Bentz describe some of the soul-searching that went into achieving this goal. Suffice it to say, the process was far from straightforward…

Labels – a minor detail? Absolutely not! These bits of paper are the second most important factor driving consumers’ choice of wines in supermarkets after the price of bottles. Those that successfully convey key information on the contents of the bottle therefore play a key marketing role in winning over undecided customers. They are critical both in outlets where competition is fierce and in more private settings. Wherever it is seen, a good label is one that leaves a lasting impression on consumers – a beacon on the high seas. It is therefore interesting to note that several Luxembourgian producers have recently addressed this issue, including two major industry players – Vinsmoselle and Bernard-Massard.

For their part, Domaines Vinsmoselle have made a completely clean break with the past. In November 2019, the cooperative unveiled a rebrand of its entry-level range – PDO (protected designation of origin) wines with no specific indication of geographic origin. Transparent Bordeaux-style bottles with screw caps have replaced the traditional green Alsace flutes with corks. The predominantly white label features portraits of cooperative winemakers. “We wanted to showcase the 230 families that make up Vinsmoselle,” explains Josy Gloden, the cooperative president (and also a winemaker in Bech-Kleinmacher).

This new focus is aimed at giving a more human face to a large producer that cultivates over half of Luxembourg’s vineyards. The desire to provide a more personal touch is clearly reflected in the label, which now reads “Les Vignerons de la Moselle” (“Moselle Winemakers”), replacing the words “Domaines Vinsmoselle”, which have been relegated to the bottom of the back label. “That doesn’t mean the end for Vinsmoselle,” affirms General Manager, Patrick Berg. “It just means that our still wines will be marketed under the new Vignerons de la Moselle brand, just as our crémants are marketed under the Poll Fabaire brand (editor’s note – since 1991).”

In July, Vinsmoselle unveiled the next steps in this revolution, with new graphic identities for all its ranges. The full makeover given to the PDOs has now been rolled out to the Premiers Crus, Grands Premiers Crus and Grands Premiers Crus with indication of lieu-dit. The purpose of this campaign is twofold. Firstly, it seeks to modernise branding that dates back around twenty years, and secondly provides a clearer hierarchy of the various wine categories. “This revamp reflects the spirit of PDO more faithfully and promotes our best terroirs,” points out Patrick Berg.

Vinsmoselle has also been replaced by Vignerons de la Moselle on all these bottles. The labels of the Premiers Crus are off-white, each featuring a drawing of a winemaker. The grape variety and vintage appear on a second label beneath the main one. The front of the bottle for the Grands Premiers Crus is laid out in exactly the same way, although with a black main label. Only the Grands Premiers Crus with indication of lieux-dits (there are 25 of them) do not include portraits.

This autumn, Domaines Vinsmoselle have even added a new tier to this structure with the new Vignum range. The range has actually been around since 2018, but previously only included high-end wines (crémants and still wines) supplied in magnums (except the crémant, which is also available in 75cl bottles). “These wines originate from what we consider to be our best terroirs, which are cultivated to produce low but high-quality yields,” notes Patrick Berg. “As such, we have put them on a par with our Charta Schengen Prestige range.” These wines are only available in limited quantities from Vinsmoselle wine stores and gourmet restaurants, and magnums are a rarity.

To give you the full story, we should add that Poll Fabaire crémants have not been included in this wave of rebranding – although that is subject to change.

In Grevenmacher, Bernard-Massard has also tweaked the identity of its still wines. According to its CEO, Antoine Clasen, this was essential: “the Bernard-Massard brand is well known in the Grande Région, but mainly for our sparkling wines and less for our still wines.” The old labels, deemed somewhat old-fashioned, were shelved to make way for an attractive new look. However, deciding to make a change is one thing; choosing a new visual is quite another. Two agencies wrestled with this problem before a proposal finally emerged that was deemed sufficiently effective. “The idea was to keep the same feel to avoid completely confusing customers,” explains Antoine Clasen. “We had to modernise the range while retaining the brand DNA.”

The new label only includes essential information without any embellishments! Everything else has been transferred to the back label. The Bernard-Massard name and logo are very visible. The emblem itself, representing the arms of the Diocese of Trier (since modernised) deserves further explanation. “Our Trier cellars are set in the former bishop’s residence in Trier, in which the estate has its origins,” explains Antoine Clasen. The coat of arms also features a rose, the national flower of Luxembourg grown in Limpertsberg between 1850 and 1914, providing the district with a global reputation.

Graphically, most of the label is taken up with a representation of vine stock roots. “The vine’s anchorage in the soil symbolises our attachment to Luxembourg, a very important notion for us as one of the country’s largest private vineyard owners.” The roots are white gold coloured on the labels for white wines and red on the labels for rosés and reds.

Domaine Claude Bentz (in Remich) is another producer that has redesigned its labels very recently, and unlike the other two is independent. This overhaul is part of the company’s efforts to modernise instigated by Carole Bentz, who is taking over from her father. With the launch of its first crémant (see page 32) and the construction of a new tasting and events room, this estate that had previously traded quietly on its reputation is now opening up to the world.

Simplicity and clarity are the main attributes of the new label. Only the bare minimum has been added to the white background with its two gold borders. The key elements of the previous branding (which was over twenty years old) – namely the emblem, typeface, and “Fournisseur de la Cour” (“Supplier to the Court”) logo – are still visible. One change does stand out: the name of the estate, which had previously been written in small letters at the bottom of the label, is now much easier to read. “That really needed changing!” smiles Carole Bentz.

These efforts to change the company profile are gradual and not aimed at shaking everything up. “The label needed to be modernised and updated to be slightly more in keeping with the current times,” admits the winemaker. “It’s only a slight rebrand as we wanted to keep the elegance of the old label, which is a good reflection of our estate.”

This distinction can also be seen in the label of the new crémant. It is round, clean and stylish, standing out clearly from the competition (even at global level) and identifiable from a distance. “The advantage of coming to the market late is that we can benefit from what has already been done! We’ve done a lot of research and thought hard about the direction we wanted to take. Although it has taken a little while to achieve this, we are very happy with the result. I believe that the identities of the label and the crémant itself are consistent.” 

This perhaps sums up the main challenge facing anyone considering such changes. While it’s essential to inform consumers and grab their attention (either in traditional or unconventional ways), it’s also vital to maintain a certain degree of consistency between the image given to wines and the personality of the beverage contained in the bottle. In order to produce an effective label, good customer knowledge is therefore required. There’s no doubt that being a winemaker is a tricky business!

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