For all the hand-wringing among marketers about how to get Millennials and Generation Z more interested in wine, most wineries are still ignoring the most obvious, simple way to attract engaged consumers: clearer education and transparency through labeling.
Every wine brand has its own exclusive communications medium, which is the packaging. The space on the wine bottle, box or can is wide open for education. It’s already paid for, and it’s positioned in front of consumers everywhere.
However, very few labels tell consumers what’s really inside the bottle or what the wine tastes like. Young consumers, in particular, value transparency in the products they buy, but even Boomers like myself inspect food and drink labels to find ingredients and hints about how the product will taste.
In the past year and half, hard seltzers have shown the way on this. The nutrition info printed on White Claw Hard Seltzer has helped it get placed in “better for you” sections of many stores. It’s become an advantage for the category as a whole. Consumers often seek these drinks out for that very reason.
A few U.S. wineries like Ridge Vineyards, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Dry Creek Vineyard and Markus Wine Co. have adopted label transparency measures, too. For many years, Ridge has declared everything that goes into their wines, including items like “hand-harvested, sustainably grown, organic grapes;” “indigenous yeasts;” “naturally occurring malolactic bacteria;” “oak from barrel aging;” “calcium carbonate” and “minimum effective SO2.”
The move is both education and subtle promotion. The truth is, many high-quality wines have similar positive attributes to brag about, and consumers would appreciate getting those facts.
But ingredient labeling should not be the end of the conversation. Consumers want and deserve to know what a wine tastes like, too. Red blends that are sweet should be identified as such. Tannic wines should be labeled as tannic, similar to how some craft brewers show International Bitterness Units (IBUs) on their labels.
Winemaking techniques are also points of interest that could help consumers connect to bottles and support a brand’s vinous ethos. Wines made from organic grapes should clearly indicate their grape-growing practices. Same for the small minority of wines made with no added sulfites. Wines made in real barrels, rather than with oak products dunked in the wine, should say so, too.
Wine lightens our lives in mysterious ways, but it’s time to stop mystifying consumers with opaque labeling that obscures what’s in the bottle.