Judges Select Best in Show Packaging

Top 50 finalists will appear at the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference on Aug. 16

by Kate Lavin
wine packaging awards
A judge surveys entries in the Wines & Vines Packaging Design Awards.

Novato, Calif.—Five judges representing the confluence of wine retail, wine media and design identified North America’s best wine packaging today at Hamilton Field’s Key Room in Novato. Appraising entries for the third annual Wines & Vines Packaging Design Awards, the judging panel was able to interact with the entries and evaluate features such as paper stock, glass weight and closure relative to other entries.

The entries with the top 50 scores, as voted by the judges, will be on display during the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference taking place Aug. 16 at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, Calif. Conference attendees will be invited to vote for their favorite package, with the winner earning the People’s Choice Award.

Judges assigned scores to entries in five other categories, with the morning hours spent evaluating entries in the luxury, classic format and alternative packaging categories.

Sara Schneider, wine editor for Sunset magazine, observed, “I was really drawn to some innovative shapes and creativity,” but noticed that several entries had key information missing from the front label.

Curtis Mann, director of wine, beer and spirits at Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, agreed, noting, “Buyers look first at varietal and second at appellation, and so many didn’t have varietal or appellation on the front label,” which could translate into lost sales at retail.

Going up and out
Rules for the Luxury Package category required that entries have a retail price of $50 or more. Wines submitted for this category included bottles of sparkling, still and dessert wines, and some standout features included metallic full-bottle wrap, wax medallions, a pewter applique and hand-applied Swarovski crystals.

In addition to details about the materials, many entrants supplied notes that included technical information about the bottling process as well as the story behind their winery’s name and other brand elements. One entry, for example, was designed on butcher paper in homage to the winery’s family history in the meat-packing industry.

The Alternative Format category included cans, pouches, bag-in-box entries and more. Judges were given the retail price for each entry in order to evaluate how well packages met expectations for the price point. Entries in the Alternative Format category highlighted a variety of special features including recycled components and a variety of package sizes.

Back to basics—with a twist
Classic Format was the most populous category, with judges evaluating four tables full of entries. Wineries from British Columbia and Washington state to Illinois and Virginia entered the Classic Format category, with notable packaging elements including die-cuts, frosted glass, high-gloss varnish and hot-stamp details. Multiple entries featured original art such as watercolor on their labels, and one bottle used 24-carat gold leaf screen print. 
Closure features included wax dip, metallic capsules and glass stoppers in addition to more traditional selections.

Competition judge and graphic designer Barbara Gelfand Summer noted some wineries that entered multiple packages in the competition stuck to a particular style, while others showed a lot of variety in their designs. “There’s a beauty to the difference,” Summer said. “They’re allowing their employees a bit of freedom.”

Debbie Zachareas, co-owner of Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and the Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchant, said, “There was one entry I gave 24 points (the maximum) and said, ‘I would totally buy this if what is inside is as good as what is outside.’”

Groups by design
In the Package Redesign category, judges evaluated packages after redesign by looking at the before and after versions of each package. Some entries were complete overhauls, while many incorporated similar elements in their redesigned packages but with a different emphasis or use of materials.

Four long tables were required to accommodate the Package Series Design category, for which wineries submitted wines best represented as a group. For some this meant different varieties under the same label, while others entered the same wine packaged in different formats. 

“I thought the series was tough to judge because they were very, very good,” graphic designer and illustrator Barbara Phillips-Barrett said. “I thought a few standout packages were very exciting and really used their entire marketing toolkit.”

To see the Packaging Design Awards finalists and vote for your favorite, register for the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference at wvpack.com.  



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