Simply Bewitching: A New Era in Wine Labels

by Brittany Willes, editor, PostPress
The Bewitched label recently received a gold award during the 24th annual FSEA Gold Leaf Awards. It was recognized for most Creative Use of Foil & Embossing Label (Sheet or Rotary).

With its dramatic gold foiling set against a striking black background, the Bewitched Chardonnay wine label has been making a splash since it first arrived on the scene. Designed by Joy Hallman of Stranger & Stranger, an international design firm with a reputation for creating unique and unforgettable packaging, it’s little wonder Bewitched has received such high levels of admiration. To bring the design to life, Stranger & Stranger reached out to Vintage 99 Label, a California-based printer specializing in wine labels.

When remarking on the Bewitched label, Vintage 99 Director of Sales and Customer Service Brian Lloyd stated, “Clients are constantly telling us, ‘Oh wow, I want my label to look like this!’ It’s effective and different and it gets everyone’s eye.”

Effective is one way to describe the label. Utilizing a mixture of bold lettering, fine lines and tiny diamond embellishments – all done in dramatic gold foil – the design, at first glance, appears quite complex. However, looks can be deceiving, and, in the case of Bewitched, this works to the label’s advantage.

“When Stranger & Stranger first brought us the project, we knew it would be a challenge due to the very fine lines and dots that make up the design,” explained Lloyd. “From a finishing standpoint, it’s already difficult. What makes it even harder is the combination of thick letters paired with incredibly fine dots.” This is because the foil reacts differently to pressure and temperature. Managing both throughout a run that incorporates both fine and broad details can be quite challenging.

For example, the diamond-shaped border around the Bewitched name is composed of two differently sized fine lines of foil, in addition to lines of extremely small dots. The border is as fine as it is possible to get and still transfer well. Holding that pattern without any of the individual diamonds dropping out – while also holding the solid foil letter ‘B’ – represented one of the greatest challenges due to the pressure, temperature and tension of the foil, which needed to be just right.

Yet, because the labels’ design is composed entirely of foil stamping, this actually made it easier to print in many ways. According to Lloyd, had the design required printing over foil, embossing or other elements, the production process would have been much more complicated. “From a production standpoint,” said Lloyd, “once we got the foil die correct, it was pretty smooth sailing.”

One of the reasons the Bewitched label is so striking is the black vellum paper on which it is printed. This unique paper is dyed black all the way through, making it particularly successful when used for bottles. Unlike traditional white paper labels that result in a visible edge, Stranger & Stranger wanted only the black and gold foil visible when viewing the red bottle. For Vintage 99, this also meant they didn’t have to perform any additional printing to accommodate the design. It all came down to the foil. “From a printing standpoint, there’s technically no print,” said Lloyd, “just finishing and diecut and varnish.”

Once Vintage 99 received the design file for the label, it was sent to the company’s die vendor to be sure the whole design could be reproduced without any of the fine lines dropping off. Along with the original design file, Vintage also sent a quick-time rendering of the bottle and artwork. This was made possible using 3D proofing software called Visualizer.

“The software allows us to actually take the artwork, render it on a bottle in a quick-time VR movie that we can send to the die vendor and the client,” said Lloyd. “We do that prior to pulling the trigger – making the die and getting it on press. We wanted to be sure we could get all the subtle nuances of the foil diemaking processes just right.”

The label itself was printed at Vintage 99’s Santa Rosa facility on an offset press with a flat-stamp unit built in. According to Lloyd, this meant taking the flat-stamp unit with the die, mounting it in the press and doing a lot of fine-tuning before running it.

“We did foil runs between the black paper that is already dyed and the gold foil. That heat transfer process gives the label the final look,” said Lloyd. The last step was to apply a protective varnish that helps prevent scuff marks while the wine bottles are in transit.

Despite its challenges, the label has been a resounding success. As Lloyd noted, “The clients loved it. They haven’t wanted to change anything and have no plans of deviating from the original design. The response has been pretty overwhelming.”

The Bewitched label recently received a gold award during the 24th annual FSEA Gold Leaf Awards. It was recognized for most Creative Use of Foil & Embossing – Label (Sheet or Rotary).