Chris Wilson of Gutter & Stars on his award winning wine labels.
Good wine needs good label design. Our friend Chris Wilson at Gutter and Stars has some of the most interesting labels in the business. And some of the most exciting wines.
Since first writing this article Gutter & Stars labels have won the Drinks Business Best Design Packaging in Wine Awards 2023. The judges said: “the collection’s impact comes purely from design, not from pyrotechnics”.
Chris Wilson On The Inspiration Behind His Award Winning Labels
It’s what’s on the inside that counts. This is true of people, books and sausages, but can the same be said of wine? Are we allowed to judge a wine by its label? After all this is often the first cue we have when selecting a bottle to enjoy.
It goes without saying that the single most important thing about any wine is the wine itself, everything else sits beneath this in the hierarchy. But I firmly believe that the label and general aesthetic of the bottle and producer/brand comes a close second.
As winemaker at Cambridge-based urban winery Gutter&Stars, this is the time of year when thoughts are turned away from winemaking for a few weeks and towards label design and the look and feel of the new releases.
Good Wine Needs Good Label Design To Build A Good Customer Base.
A lot of time, effort and creativity goes into each label. I know how good the stuff inside the bottle is, so why dress it up in everyday clothes when we can really go to town. I firmly believe that an eye-catching label goes a long way to turning consumers on to a particular wine or producer in the first place. Furthermore, you can shift the market you are appealing to with intelligent, focused design. This is very important for small producers like me.
The thinking extends further than the label too. Bottle shape, closure type and colour are key. As are details such as QR codes and space for hand-numbering each bottle which are all part of the package. At Gutter&Stars we work the brilliant Ed Wright Creative on all our design work and Ed shares our passion for Swiss fonts, sharp design and subtle (sometimes not so subtle) musical references, which feature in many of our labels.
The Good Mixer // Blonde on Blonde Blend 2021
This label is inspired by the gigs and festivals that punctuated my late teens and 20s. A collage of tickets, lanyards and stickers were given a gig poster feel by designer Ed Wright to really make the colours pop. This is a very British label – just look at the bands! – but there’s not a Union Flag in sight.
Rip It Up // Orange Bacchus 2021
A base musical reference sparked the label for G&S’s first orange wine. Named after an Orange Juice song, Rip It Up, it gave me the chance to revisit and re-purpose a piece of artwork I made at art school in the late 1990s. The artwork is a collage of flirtatious ‘pen-pal’ adverts from Select magazine. Ed worked his magic with a bold orange wash and wax and striking black varnish, and it was good to go.
Play It Cool // Chardonnay 2021
The most expensive label we’ve done, and for a run of just 120 bottles! We worked with letter cutting workshop Cardozo Kindersley – who are based 5-minutes from the winery – to come up with a design for this limited-release Chardonnay. They sketched the ‘Play It Cool’ name on paper as if it was to be cut in stone and Ed worked on a chalky outline with one line pulled out in gold foil. It was finished with a black-on-black logo in varnish and gold foil detail on both edges of the label. It looks amazing.
Rage Against The Dying of the Light // Rosé 2022
For our first rosé we thought we’d turn things on their head a little and go for a greyscale label. We’ll let the wine bring the colour!. The photography here is an iPhone snap taken from a plane window with a mono filter. Ed has reversed the image gradient within the Gutter&Stars wordmark to mirror the photograph. It’s nice that the label here chimes with the wine’s name too, and when the pink liquid is poured there’s quite a juxtaposition between label and juice.
Gutter & Stars wine looks great. It is also absolutely delicious. In just a few short years Chris has built a loyal fan base and strong critical acclaim for his wine. The wine is made in tiny batches, so if you want to buy a bottle direct from the winery, don’t delay.