Wooden and Plastic Wine Packages Win

Expanded award program rewards innovations and new brands

by Jane Firstenfeld
scandanavia u.s. wine sales
The five winning packages of the second annual Wines & Vines Packaging Design Awards.

Yountville, Calif.—Little-known California wineries are taking the lead with innovative packages that make them stand out. A judging panel (including this writer) for the Wines & Vines Packaging Design Awards evaluated and rated more than 121 entries from wineries and suppliers. The panel chose its favorites in three categories, and the 50 top submissions were displayed at the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference on Aug. 17.

It was the second year of the packaging awards, and the number of entries quadrupled from the previous year. Attendees were encouraged to look them over and vote on their favorites. More than 200 did so, resulting in People’s Choice awards for Most Outstanding Package and Most Innovative Package.

The judges, who were five wine and design professionals, reviewed bottles and other formats submitted by wineries and by industry suppliers such as packaging manufacturers and designers. Wines & Vines received 86 entries from wineries and 35 from suppliers. Among supplier entries, the judges chose winners in the categories of Most Outstanding and Most Innovative. They judged the winery entries only for Most Outstanding. Editor Jim Gordon and the magazine’s graphic designer Rebecca Arnn handed out the five awards in a ceremony that came at the end of the conference.

The Winners


• People's Choice Most Outstanding Package, as chosen by ballots cast by conference attendees: A 2009 Pinot Noir from Wooden Bottle Wine Co.

• People's Choice Most Innovative Package, as chosen by ballots cast by conference attendees: One87 Wine & Cocktails for its new single-serve 187ml wine packaging.

• Most Outstanding Package, by a supplier and as chosen by a jury panel: Design firm Stranger & Stranger for Run Riot Pinot Noir.

• Most Innovative Package, by a supplier and as chosen by a jury panel: Quest Industries of Stockton, Calif., for its “masked spray” on a bottle of 2011 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon from Reed Wine Cellars.

• Most Outstanding Package, submitted by a winery and chosen by a jury panel: Rubin Wines for its brand Q&A, which was designed by CF Napa.

People’s Choice winners
The people’s choice winners differed from the judges’ favorites. It was a packaging conference, so these voters were highly qualified: both interested and knowledgeable about wine packaging. The winner of the Most Outstanding Package award was The Wooden Bottle from Wooden Bottle Wine Co.

Designed and patented by owner Marcos Oliver, it doesn’t just look like wood. It is not a wood veneer on a glass bottle. It is a bottle crafted entirely of wood from the rubber trees of Thailand, lined with an FDA-approved, non-toxic product that protects the wine from wood and oxygen infusion.

It’s branded with a silhouette of an olive tree (Oliver also packages olive oil in a wooden bottle). Originally inspired while working on a freelance design assignment for the Cadillac Escalade, in which he wanted to place inserts into the grille, the wine lover went on a quest to put wine in wood. His motto: “Why Wooden You?”

Oliver claims it is the only all-wood wine package. Appropriately, it’s sealed with natural wood cork from Amorim. Wooden Bottle produces some 17 different varietals, with grapes mostly sourced from North Coast vineyards; the bottles sell for an average $25.

Most are sold direct to consumer (DtC), over the internet or hand to hand at Southern California tasting events, where Oliver said consumers are often tempted to pilfer the bottles. The all-wood bottles weigh in at 12-ounces, much lighter than typical, 16-18 oz. glass bottles, and don’t break should they fall.

The People’s Choice award for Most Innovative went to One87ml Wine & Cocktails in American Canyon, Calif., and designed by OGW/France. A single-serve option for off- or on-premise and DtC, it’s a PET plastic, BPA-free vessel, 100% recyclable with a guaranteed shelf-life of 12 or more months. The makers claim its rim is smooth and glass-like, and headspace contains less than 0.2% oxygen.

Judges’ picks
At least one judge was not overly impressed with the ultimate winner of the Most Outstanding Package award for winery submissions, a brand called Q&A. The judge said that it looked inexpensive, and “the concept seems made to appeal to newer wine drinkers: Welcome aboard.”

But that was exactly the point, according to PR rep Jo Diaz. This $15/bottle brand was designed by CF Napa for Sebastopol’s 44,000 case Rubin Wines. Winery owner Ron Rubin is, Diaz said, “A big thinker.” Currently board president of Sonoma State University (SSU), he’s also a major donor to education institutions across the United States.

The Q&A brand was built specifically as an entry-level wine geared toward millennials, a California red blend of Merlot, Ruby Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Sirah. The Q&As are literal: Buy a case and you’ll see 60 questions and answers about wine from around the world on the packaging itself, devised by SSU Wine Business Institute faculty.

In the heart of Sonoma County, Rubin Wines does not currently have a public tasting room.

The winner of the judges’ award for Most Innovative Package submitted by a supplier went to Quest Industries LLC in Stockton, Calif., for a proprietary décor process that had been applied to a bottle of Reed Cellars’ wine. Quest’s principal Ryan Reed is the owner of the winery.

The bottle exterior receives a spray coated “mask”, which may be further embellished. The winning Reed Cellars package is “naked” on the lower half of a dark bottle and spray coated with the dark red agent on the top. Near the now-popular Lodi AVA, Reed has been selling wine—mostly Zinfandel—since 2010. About 100 cases of the masked Reed Cabernet Sauvignon are available online for about $25/bottle.

Run Riot is a Treasury Wine Estates brand created by Stranger & Stranger, an international design firm. “Critter” labels have become passé since their popularity in the early 2000s, but this is a critter brand with a purpose and a story about a wild boar that rampages through the vineyard. Stranger & Stranger’s packaging and label design won it the judges’ award for Most Outstanding Package submitted by a supplier.

The paper label includes a jaw-shaped die-cut, which is eye- and finger-catching. The package effectively connects the vigneron’s eternal struggle against hungry animals that just want those grapes.

The judges and Wines & Vines staff said they hope to see many more entries in next year’s awards judging, and are considering additional award categories to recognize other outstanding attributes of package design and materials.

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