The Psychology of Wine Labels: Why We Buy Based On Look, Not Taste

The Psychology of Wine Labels: Why We Buy Based On Look, Not Taste

Have you ever been browsing in the wine section of the grocery store, looking for a great bottle of wine, and picked out a bottle just because the label looked fabulous?

We can’t help but think that a great looking bottle of wine must also be a great tasting bottle of wine. After all, if someone spent so much time and effort on the label, they must have spent even more on the wine itself!

Wine Labels cover

And that’s exactly what wine makers want you to think. Wineries have learned that a great wine label is (almost) more important than the wine itself. The effectiveness of a wine label has everything to do with the bottle’s profitability and reaching the right customer.

One study, “Generation Yine” by Annie Larson, found that millennials prefer brightly colored, graphic wine labels with creative names over traditional, muted wine labels. The study even found that the labels that use sans serif typefaces appeal more to millennials.

When Real Simple did a fun study with Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and social behavior, and Fred J. Helmstetter, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, they found that participants could remember 94 percent of the bottles with graphic wine labels, but only 68 percent of the ones with traditional labels.

Winemakers know that labels attract certain kinds of customers. If a bottle of wine features a cartoon fish, it might subconsciously reach out to someone who is making fish for dinner. Colors and styles can also trigger specific emotional reactions; bright colors usually encourage positive feelings while a sunset can remind us of romance.

So, what goes into the designing of a wine label? Let’s dive into the psychology of wine labels to find out! Here are some of the main drivers behind how wine labels sell themselves to you.

Feel Like Our Label

One of the most popular tactics wine label designers use is trying to make the label look the way a consumer would want to feel. They can do this with the colors they use, the font, and with pictures. Check out these wine labels and see what their graphics, colors, and labels are trying to say:


Volteo, Tempranillo 2010
This graphic image is incredibly powerful. They are reaching out to women who want to feel free, sexy, and passionate. We know this with the sultry pictured woman, as well as the colors used. Red is the color of passion, black is the color of mystery, and purple is the color of luxury.

Cupcake Wine

Cupcake Vineyards, Red Velvet 2011
Everything about this label shouts fun, carefree, and friendship. They are trying to reach out to girls on a ladies night out. Notice how the label designer uses fast brush strokes to paint the “C” of cupcake. Then take a look at the colors: blue, the color of loyalty; red, the color of passion; and yellow, the color of joy. And, of course, the name “Cupcake” is just asking for a girly girl to add this bottle to the cart.

Let Us Inspire You

Some wine labels endeavor to inspire you with adventure, humor, or silliness. They hope that as you are browsing the shelves, you will spot their wine and have it “speak” to you. Check out how these two example labels below are trying to reach out to inspire a certain kind of consumer:


The Expedition, Canoe Ridge 2011
This label is trying to find the amateur adventurer buyer. The label is designed like a ticket with the perforated edges and stamps. They also added a little image of a canoe to help you envision escaping on a quest through their bottle of wine.

Mad Housewife

Mad Housewife, Cabernet Sauvignon
Whether you are a husband trying to make your wife laugh (although I’m not sure if I would laugh if someone brought me this) or you are a housewife who loves to poke a little fun, this bottle inspires the silly buyer. From the title to the picture, the humor psychology will attract a shopper hoping to lighten their day.

Everything You Love in a Bottle

A few wine labels use psychology to try and capture the essence of a prized item in their bottle. Take a look at these wines and see how they have encapsulated a luxury item in their labels:

Chocolate Shop Wine

Chocolate Shop, Chocolate Strawberry
This label explicitly states which consumer it is trying to reach; “The Chocolate Lover’s Wine” graces the bottom of the label. The red and gold ink also appeals to the decadent consumer — red stimulates appetite and gold is the color of sumptuousness.

Art in a Bottle Wine

Banfi, Superiore Chianti 2010
This label screams bottled artwork. It is hoping to reach out to the art lovers of the world by showcasing an exquisite painting and using the black and gold colors of an expensive gallery.

Flip Flop Wine

Flip Flop, Left Coast
This wine has cleverly positioned colorful flip-flops on their label, calling out to vacationers and relaxed wine drinkers everywhere.

All of these labels, whether they have funny pictures or romantic settings, have been carefully crafted to illicit the desired response. A wine label can make or break the success of a wine company! Next time you browse through the wine aisle, consider which wine label is trying to grab you with its clever psychology.

All photos courtesy of the author except the lead photo by tat.

The Psychology of Wine Labels: Why We Buy Based On Look, Not Taste

A Guest Writer

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