Sunday, March 14, 2010

Let's Play a Wine Game!

Everybody loves a challenging mental exercise in the form of a game or contest.  While this isn't exactly a game, it is challenging.  It's called design a wine label for a British Columbia wine.  The other part of the exercise: next time you're in your favourite wine store, try to spot how many wines are not labeled according to the rules.

Perhaps you've noticed that Black Cloud Pinot Noir has a bit of an outlaw label.  You would be right to think this.

The rules or regulations are many and they're designed by authorities on several levels.  The federal poo-bahs have the Consumer Labelling and Packaging Act.  We all know (at least in this country) there has to be plenty of English/French no matter where it is sold.  As a result "Product of Canada" must also appear as "Produit du Canada".  That and a host of other terms and notes.  They also define how large the print should be for the alcohol and volume notes and how wide the space between the numerals and metric volume measurement.

Some of the rules

  • The metric net quantity must be at least 1.6 mm in height

  • There must be a space between 750 and ml

  • The above must be in boldface

  • Only this abbreviation is considered bilingual: "13.5 % alc./vol."  Make sure the periods are in there.

  • There must be a space between "13.5" and "%"

Next, if you're part of the Vintner's Quality Alliance (VQA) program and are allowed to use the insignia "VQA" there are specific rules about where it should be placed on label and bottle.  Plus, using place names as geographic indicators or appellations is controlled.

Some of these rules have good reason to be and are helpful for the consumer.

I think for a wine producer, the most contentious issue is the description of the primary display label.  Bottles can have a front or back despite being cylindrical in 99% of all cases.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which enforces the Act mentioned above, interprets the label that is thought to be the one most often used to display the product as the primary display.  It requires all the legal stuff about the colour of the wine and where it was made to be on the primary display label.  The catch is:  the producer doesn't get to decide, the government agency gets to define what the primary display label is.

If you've invested heavily in product package design it's not too much fun to have the image ruined by text that could easily be moved to the secondary or back label.

Thankfully, enforcement is sketchy.  But that's why you can find all the 'artistic' labels in the stores.  Happy hunting.