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Brand World

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04/05/2015 - par Mark Tungate

Quand Mark Tungate, notre chroniqueur anglais, entre chez un marchand de vins, c'est comme lorsqu'il pénètre chez un libraire. Il sait qu'on ne peut juger une bouteille ou un livre sur sa seule étiquette ou couverture. Et pourtant, les marchands de vins sont des sorciers en matière de storytelling...

I’ve come to New York before but this time I’m staying in the apartment of friends, almost Airbnb-style. One of the advantages in a city of a million wallet-strangling restaurants is that you can occasionally cook your own dinner – and buy your own wine.


The sensation I felt when I stepped into our local merchant, Chambers Street Wines, was similar to the one I feel when I walk into a bookstore: the impression of infinite possibility. Just as you can’t judge a book by the cover, you shouldn’t judge a wine by the label. But here it’s tempting, oh so tempting. Because the Americans are brilliant at wine labels. Even in this field they’ve got their branding down to a fine art.


Most French wines, as you know, have a building on the label: a château, a domaine, even a mas. But Californian growers give their wines poetic names and embellish them with art. Inevitably, I fell hard for a bottle of Ghostwriter Pinot Noir (2011) from the Amaya Ridge Vineyard in the Santa Cruz mountains. Its creator, Kenny Likitprakong – a former skateboarder – also makes wines called Hobo and Folk Machine.


Two days later, I was sipping a glass of Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Syrah (2012), whose beautiful label features a stylised weather vane. Pax Mahle, the man behind Wind Gap, tells us that «geological breaks in the coastal hills funnel wind inland and strongly influence the growing and ripening of our grapes.» Wine-making as storytelling.


Next up is a bottle of Slingshot Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2013), whose stunning label was designed by a wine branding specialist: CF Napa Brand Design (cfnapa.com).


These labels have the same goal as book covers: to attract the attention of customers in a crowded market where the product is increasingly ordered online. The young staff at Chambers Street Wines understand that they’re also in competition with the internet: hence tastings, solicitous service – and very good advice. «Branding is great», one of them told me. «But with wine, you can’t disguise the quality».


The same could be said of clothes – except that you don’t want to rip off the labels and frame them.

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