Innovating in Wine Packaging Design

Experts explore what's new, useful and helps drive sales in wine packaging

by Andrew Adams
wines and vines packaging conference corey beck francis ford coppola
Winemaker Corey Beck discusses the innovative packaging choices of Francis Ford Coppola Winery today during the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference. Photo: Cody Gehret
Yountville, Calif.—Nearly 20 years ago, when Corey Beck was still a relatively new winemaker, the namesake behind Francis Ford Coppola Winery wanted a sparkling wine, in a can, with a straw so consumers like his daughter could drink it demurely.

Beck put together a lengthy email about why such a packaging strategy was too costly, too impractical and just too difficult.

Speaking to the audience at the fourth annual Wines & Vines Packaging Conference today, he said he was happy to see a reply within a minute from Coppola and assumed the owner had agreed with his assessment.

To the contrary, the one-line email simply read: “Do not be the road block to creativity.”

And so Beck expanded the Sofia canned wine project to a national brand, and the winery was one of the early adopters of canned wine, which has proved to be one of the most significant trends in the wine industry in recent years.

Beck was a featured speaker at the full-day conference held at the Lincoln Theater in Napa Valley. The event also featured panel discussions about sustainability in wine packaging, what the wine trade wants in packaging and how to ensure a smooth and easy bottling day.

More than 400 people attended the conference, which also included a trade show of the industry’s top packaging suppliers.

Beck went on to describe how he’s had to find the right machines, labels and other materials to satisfy a successful artist who doesn’t particularly care how his vision is implemented as long as it is.

Coppola also decided he wanted to add a gold net to the Claret bottle from his Diamond Collection. The vintner and director had been inspired by a 1906 bottle found at the historic Inglenook Estate in Napa Valley after he purchased the property. Since prestigious wines of Rioja still use gold net, Beck dutifully traveled to a few bodegas in Spain to see how the netting was applied there and discovered it was added laboriously by hand.

In 1995, with production already at a high volume, Beck knew hand applying netting wasn’t going to work. He recalled, “Francis said, I don’t care, figure out a machine that can do this.”

So he kept searching until he found a small French company that built a machine that could add the netting. The machines cost $250,000, and the company only produced one per year, but Beck put the winery on the waiting list and eventually was able to bring one to California.

In the end, the effort to get the netting automated and in place paid off with sales growth more than tripling to 16% per year and volume doubling. The wine is now one of the leaders in the $15-$20 retail category, Beck said.

The netting did slow botting down from around 200 bottles per minute to 65, so Coppola invested in a second machine.

Beck said his best piece of advice for wineries seeking to innovate and find success with packaging is to pursue partnerships with retailers. He described the technicolor brand in which the winery developed a unique, multi-color version of its Zoetrope brand that has done remarkably well with the retailer ordering 10,000 cases of the unique production.

Concluding the conference was an awards ceremony for the winners of the Wines & Vines Packaging Design Awards. Wineries throughout the North America submitted bottles for review by a panel of professional judges who selected bronze, silver and gold medal winners in five categories that included: Classic, Luxury, Best Redesign, Best Series, Alternative Packaging and Best in Show.

The gold medal winners included:
Classic: Cooper & Thief Cellarmasters, entered by Bruni Glass, Fairfield, Calif.
Luxury: King Estate 25th anniversary, entered by Affinity Creative Group, Mare Island, Calif.
Redesign: Sterling Vineyards, entered by Treasury Wine Estates
Series: Fableist Wine Co., entered by Encore Glass, Fairfield, Calif.
Alternative: Element Cellars of Angwin, Calif.
Best in Show: Fableist Wine Co.



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