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6 Wine Label Design Tips to Save You Time and Money

Sample wine label depicting TTB label requirements

Whether bottling wine from your own vineyard or giving bottles as gifts, a well-designed wine label is a must. Connoisseurs, collectors, and casual drinkers alike all have one thing in common: they love a good label. When designing your custom wine label, you’ll need to follow the TTB labeling guidelines, but don’t stop there! Check out these design tips to create a visually stunning product everyone will covet.

1. Include Essential Elements

The most important step in wine label design is making sure the label is up to the standards of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (or TTB). Listed below are the details that must be displayed on your wine label.

Infographic - how to read a wine label

Information Required on the Front Label

As designated by the TTB, specific information is required on your wine bottle’s front label, also referred to as the “brand” label. 

Appellation of Origin

The Appellation of Origin indicates where the grapes or other fruit are grown and is mandatory when:

  1. A vintage date appears
  2. A varietal designation appears
  3. A type designation of varietal appears
  4. A semi-generic designation appears
  5. An “estate bottled” claim appears
  6. A product name qualified with the word “brand” under the requirements of 27 CFR 4.39(j) appears

Brand Name

The brand name is usually the most prominent text on a wine label design, letting consumers know who produced the wine. If the wine isn’t sold under a brand name, the name of the packer or importer will be listed as the brand name.

Class or Type Designation

Indicate the type of wine, as determined by features such as color, fruit, and region. The type designation lets your customers know whether they’re buying a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Percentage of Foreign Wine

If the wine consists of a blend of American and foreign wine, and any reference to the presence of foreign wine is made on the label, indicate the percentage and origin of the foreign wine included.

Additional Information Required

The following information is also required, but does not necessarily need to appear on the front label, and can instead appear on the back label.

Infographic depicting required information on wine labels

Alcohol Content

Wines containing over 14% alcohol by volume require a numerical alcohol statement. For wines 7-14% alcohol by volume, a numerical alcohol statement is optional if the type designation “table wine” or “light wine” appears on the main label.

Health Warning Statement

Must use exact wording as mandated by federal requirements:

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems. 

Name and Address of Bottler

List the name and address, including city and state, of the importer or the bottler of the wine. If the wine was produced and bottled in the same location, you can indicate this by saying “Produced and Bottled by” and give the name of the company.

Net Contents

Net contents indicates how much wine is contained in the bottle, generally indicated by milliliters (mL)

Sulfite Declaration

A declaration is required if the wine contains sulfites or sulfiting agents. Sulfites are preservatives used in winemaking, but some consumers have sensitivities to these sulfites. 

Country of Origin

If the wine is imported, the country of origin must be indicated. Any article of foreign origin must be legibly marked with the English name of the country of origin.

Color Ingredient Disclosures

If included to add color to the wine, three color additives must be identified on the label: FD&C Yellow No. 5, cochineal extract, and carmine

Optional Information

Fanciful Name

A fanciful name gives your wine a specific product name independent from the brand name and type designation. If marketing a line of wines under one brand name, the fanciful name can help set each type apart from one another.

2. Know Your Customer

Ask yourself who your target audience is. Will you be marketing to millennials, collectors, or traditional wine consumers? Knowing who you want to purchase your product should be the first key to consider when designing your wine label. Millennials may be more attracted to bolder, less traditional labels than older generations. Likewise, collectors and connoisseurs may gravitate towards more unique designs. 

3. Know Your Brand

Prophecy Wines Rose

Knowing who you are as a brand is just as important as knowing your customers. A strong brand identity not only lends itself to your label design, but also allows your product to be more easily identifiable on the shelf. 

Consider the brand Prophecy Wines. Each type of wine they offer wears a richly illustrated label depicting archetypal characters that represent specific moods or moments. The illustrations recall medieval days and mythological evenings, inspiring your enjoyment of the wine to be legendary. Many of the labels include stylistic representations of the fruits that provide the tasting notes for each wine, thus taking conventional imagery and turning it on its head.

Prophecy Wines Sauvignon Blanc

Take some time before designing your wine bottle label to figure out what you want to convey about your brand. Fun? Elegance? Tradition? Really, really good wine? The choice is yours!

4. Choose Colors to Blend In Or Stand Out

Consider the type of wine you’re labeling, as well as the packaging. Red wines typically go in dark green or black bottles, while white wines tend to go in clear or light green bottles. You can convey a plethora of meanings with color, so use it to your advantage!

Take a note from Prophecy Wines again. Their red varieties Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and their Red Blend all wear labels with strong, warm colors as they can contrast well against the dark glass bottles.

Prophecy Wines Red Blend

Likewise, the lighter varieties like the Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc wear brighter labels with cool colors like green and blue, but feature details of warm yellow and orange, and even moody black, to create depth and interest to the designs.

Prophecy Wines Pinot Grigio

You can make a striking statement by contrasting with the wine or bottle color as well. If your wine or your company as a whole aim to be groundbreaking and fresh, don’t be afraid to go against the grain with your label design! Consider the stunning visual effect of a stark white label against a dark glass bottle of Pinot Noir, or a deep crimson label on a bottle of rosé.  

5. Typography

The font you choose for your custom wine label conveys just as much meaning as the actual label information. Typography plays an integral role in design; an ugly font can make or break an entire look. When creating your label, choose one to three (at most) different typefaces to incorporate into the design. Check online for the most trendy fonts out there right now for some clues on where to start!

6. Pick The Perfect Label Material

Choosing a label material is like selecting a canvas for your masterpiece. When it comes time to pick your label material, you’ll need to consider what works best for both your design and your product.

Waterproof materials like plastic or vinyl are the optimum choices for wines that will be served chilled. These materials keep labels looking flawless in any condition, and their versatility is endless. Choose a clear material to let the wine speak for itself, or go for a metallic label to take it to the next level; either of these materials can elevate even the simplest of designs.

Custom Wine Label - Bijou Creek
Metallic Plastic with a Matte Finish.

Unlaminated paper labels, like Estate 4, Estate 9, Black Vellum, and Avon Classic Crest provide texture and elegance to your overall packaging, but there are a few things to consider before choosing this type of label. Unlaminated papers are water-resistant but not strictly waterproof; though the label won’t disintegrate and the inks won’t fade, you may notice some wrinkling if the bottle is chilled or wet. When labeling wine intended to be served at room temperature, unlaminated paper is an excellent choice.

Custom Wine Label - San Martino
Estate 4 Paper.

Raise A Glass

Once you’ve completed your wine label design, that’s where we come in! We know the ins and outs of label printing, so you can trust your great designs with us. Give us a call to have samples made or get a quote; we’ll be waiting on the other line to help with whatever you need. Before you know it, everyone will be toasting to your success. Cheers – and happy labeling!

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