Guest Host: Marc Fisher

It’s called “drinking with our eyes” — the way many of us choose wine bottles based purely on our reactions to their labels. But the science behind wine marketing reveals a great deal about the collective psychology of consumers. We explore the secrets some marketers employ to appeal to consumers and learn how to judge wine by factors other than their labels.


  • Sebastian Zutant Owner, Sommelier, The Red Hen (Washington, D.C.)
  • David Schuemann Author, "99 Bottles of Wine" (Val De Grace, 2013); Owner, Creative Director, CF Napa

Photo Gallery: Drinking With Our Eyes


  • 12:24:32

    MR. MARC FISHERWelcome back. I'm Mark Fisher of the Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. There are those who always seem to know what bottle of wine to buy. The people who know which vintages are the best and which flavors pair perfectly with what you're planning to eat. And then there are the rest of us who use the less scientific method of making such a choice. We might actually pick based on the label we like best. It turns out that even educated wine drinkers fall victim to choosing bottles because they like the cuddly animals or pretty colors on the label. Marketers spend enormous amounts of energy designing labels to trigger our impulses.

  • 12:25:06

    MR. MARC FISHERAnd one can learn a lot about basic consumer behavior by studying the buying patterns of wine consumers. Joining us to explore the art and science behind the labels and what we might learn about wine by looking past its packaging are Sebastian Zutant, the co-owner and sommelier of The Red Hen, in the Bloomingdale section of Washington, D.C. And David Schuemann is the author of "99 Bottles of Wine: The Making of the Contemporary Wine Label." He's also the owner and creative director of CF Napa Brand Design. And he joins us by phone from Napa, Calif.

  • 12:25:42

    MR. MARC FISHERAnd, Sebastian Zutant, at your restaurant The Red Hen, obviously people are not choosing their wines by the label, but when you're out, as a consumer, do you find yourself being swayed by what's on the label?

  • 12:25:59

    MR. SEBASTIAN ZUTANTI'm not going to lie. You know, I own a gold iPhone 5S for a reason. It was the first thing I was drawn to. So we're all drawn to shiny metallic things and so on and so forth, but I'm also fortunate enough in the fact that I haven't had to shop in a retail store for a long time. But I won't lie, I mean, everybody's drawn to kind of pretty looking things, you know, certain color patterns, so on and so forth. But I do make an effort to shy away from things like called Bow-Wow or some…

  • 12:26:29

    FISHERThe really gimmicky stuff.

  • 12:26:31

    ZUTANTYeah, some sort of bad word or, you know, things ushered towards female consumers with skinny legs and things of that nature. I tend to find they're lower in quality.

  • 12:26:41

    FISHEROkay. Well, we'll get into that, whether there really is a correlation between what's on the label and what's in the bottle. But you can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us at, or you can send us a tweet to @kojoshow. Let us know if you've bought a bottle of wine based purely on your reaction to the label. Were you satisfied in the end? Did you see a connection between the label and the contents? Do you drink with your eyes? Let us know at 1-800-433-8850.

  • 12:27:13

    FISHERAnd, David Schuemann, you have obviously put a lot of study into this question, is there a connection between what's on the label and what's inside? Is it either in the kind of wine you're going to be having or the quality of the wine?

  • 12:27:28

    MR. DAVID SCHUEMANNWell, certainly. I mean when we -- one of the reasons we wrote the book was actually intended to describe a little bit of that thinking process. And one of the themes that we talk a lot about is really leveraging storytelling into the brand so that we start to describe the wines and how they're going to taste and maybe something about the background of the owner or the property itself, right onto the label. So really visually we start to tell that story.

  • 12:27:52

    FISHERAnd so when you are making this decision yourself, as a consumer, in the spur of the moment -- I’m not quite sure what to get, but this bottle with the gold stamp on it looks kind of enticing -- do you feel guilty making that decision based on the label? Does it feel like you're somehow doing something that, you know, where you should have known better or does it seem like all of the piece with judging what's inside the bottle?

  • 12:28:19

    SCHUEMANNWell, we're certainly not trying to deceive any consumer into buying any of our clients' products. It wouldn't do our clients much service. They probably wouldn't get repurchase. I mean, generally speaking, what we're trying to do if they've got some awards they've won, you know, we may highlight those on the front. Certainly we all fall prey to that at any kind of wine consumer level, even at the more sophisticated wine consumers are swayed by scores from wine enthusiasts or wine spectator, things like that.

  • 12:28:49

    SCHUEMANNBut certainly at the lower end of the more everyday wine drinking kind of quality, you know, people need a lot of reassurance of what -- maybe they're wondering what a wine may taste like. And so there's color cues and things like that that we can kind of help them assist, whether it's going to be more a fruit forward wine or maybe it's something a little bit more serious to be paired with food.

  • 12:29:08

    FISHERLet's go to that color question because clearly there's something to do with color in the choices of what goes on the label, but what is the connection between that color choice on the label and the kind of wine you're going to be drinking? Is there a very clear correlation there or…

  • 12:29:27

    SCHUEMANNWell, sometimes there's something as simple as berry-flavored kind of colors, like reds and purples and blues for red wines and more kind of lighter fruit, like green or kind of melon colors for a sauvignon blanc that may have some of those kind of flavors involved with them versus a chardonnay that might have a more buttery color, like a yellow. And then on the opposite side of the spectrum, there's certainly a trend to create labels that are just simply disruptive on shelves. So creating labels that are Tiffany blue, which certainly aren't indicative to any kind of flavor of the wine, but they stand out on the shelf.

  • 12:30:02

    SCHUEMANNAnd let's face it, I can't think of another consumer category that you're going to walk into the aisle and see 2,000 to 3,000 choices. Wines are pretty unique in a very crowded marketplace. And people are fighting hard for consumer attention.

  • 12:30:16

    FISHERAnd, Sebastian Zutant, color is something you've thought about a lot. I know on the menu at The Red Hen you have not just red wines and white wines and roses, but a category that I have not seen on other wine lists of orange wines. So you've thought about what color means to someone when they're choosing a wine.

  • 12:30:32

    ZUTANTYeah, the whole orange wine thing has kind of been around for a really long time. It's really just a reflection or sort of like a harkening back to the way that white wines were made a thousand years ago. But I guess it wasn't really identified as orange wine for a long period of time. And it's only kind of -- I just saw it in New York a couple years ago, and I was like, ah, so that's what that's called.

  • 12:30:53

    FISHERAnd what does it actually signify?

  • 12:30:54

    ZUTANTIt's really the opposite process of making a rose. So rose you basically press a red grape, right, and then you leave the skins in contact just for a little period of time to give color, texture, so on and so forth. So it's the same process, just with white wine. So essentially you'd press a pinot gringo grape, you'd take the juice, but you'd leave the skins in contact with it for an extended period of time because white wines you kind of want to give a whole different level of flavor. So it starts to take on skin tint and starts to take on color and it really just gives it that orange hue. So, yeah, it's got nothing to do with the flavor orange of any of that.

  • 12:31:25

    FISHERAnd so back to labels, when you're serving wines or choosing wines with customers, does the label play any role in a restaurant for wine or is it purely a retail (unintelligible) ?

  • 12:31:36

    ZUTANTFor me, I've got to be honest, I really do shy away from things that are the flashy side of things. It's just -- I don't know. It's a personal thing, you know. I've just never been one to kind of carry really kind of like blazon labels that were, you know, over the top. Again, I kind of tend to think that they don't really imply a lot of what they're carrying.

  • 12:32:01

    FISHERLet's hear from Michael, in Bethesda, Md. Michael, you're on the air.

  • 12:32:07

    MICHAELThank you very much for taking my call. This is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. I work at a winery called Leaves of Grass Vineyards in Middleburg. And we worked on our wine labels for two years and this was a labor of love. We worked with designers in Austria. And I was always puzzled by most vineyards that just use their same logo on every bottle bum, bum, bum, bum, and change the name of the wine (unintelligible) etcetera, etcetera.

  • 12:32:41

    MICHAELBut they'll just use their own corporate label and you would never know how beautiful their winery is or their production facility. And so we wanted each one to be this magnificent art piece. So there's wine for love, wine for adventure, wine for thought, so on and so forth. And I just wanted to bring up the point that basically we started in 2008 and we completely bankrupted ourselves because the labels cost so much to produce.

  • 12:33:13

    FISHERBecause you're paying the artists and the consultants and the other designers and so on?

  • 12:33:18

    MICHAELCorrect. That oftentimes, if you're really passionate about the labels, it can take away from the cost of the production of wine. And, you know, you can have really nice labels and that's about it.

  • 12:33:38

    FISHERWell, let's give David Schuemann a chance to jump in here. David, is that a typical story? Is that kind of devotion to the label -- is that the right proportion or what do you generally recommend to winemakers?

  • 12:33:54

    SCHUEMANNWell, certainly it depends on the size and the scale of your operation. We have clients that make just a few hundred cases and certainly we have some the largest clients in the world that make, you know, millions of cases of wine. And those two kind of challenges are completely different and we try to scale our fees accordingly.

  • 12:34:10

    SCHUEMANNBut one of the things we do talk to clients about is to really consider the investment they're going to make in their package design as kind of an 80/20 role. When they first are launching a wine brand, consumers will tend to buy the wines predominately about 80 percent because of the packaging and 20 percent because of the wines inside, unless they've gotten a high score or they've read about it somewhere else.

  • 12:34:34

    SCHUEMANNAnd those are tough things to get. And hopefully, once they've tried it, that 80/20 role flips and they buy at 80 percent because they love the wine and 20 percent because of the packaging. But certainly in a lot of ways we really do drink with our eyes. And we judge books by their cover and when you're making a quick decision shopping, they don't have a lot of other options to try to learn about the wines themselves, other than perhaps someone in the store or a sommelier in a restaurant.

  • 12:34:59

    SCHUEMANNBut what we've seen from most of our clients -- and we've got quite a few case studies in the book itself -- is really that our production and sales have vastly increased after we've done some of the work we've done. And I know we take a different approach than a lot of other agencies, but it's not uncommon to see sales double or even quadruple.

  • 12:35:17

    FISHERSo the investment that Michael was talking about can actually pay off?

  • 12:35:21


  • 12:35:23

    FISHERAnd, Sebastian Zutant, obviously in a restaurant it's a very different kind of approach. So if you take that 80/20 rule that David Schuemann was talking about, it's got to be at least reversed in a restaurant because the customer never sees the label.

  • 12:35:37

    ZUTANTYeah, that's true. And I can understand probably why that guy was putting so much money into his label because if he's shooting for, you know, to basically be on shelves, then, yeah, you've got to be, you know, appealing to people that are walking past you.

  • 12:35:50

    FISHERThat's your billboard.

  • 12:35:50

    ZUTANTYeah, it's your billboard, you know. And so, yeah, the restaurant model is very, very different. Now, that being said, when you get into high-end wineries they're not slapping junk of the front of their bottle, you know. They're really, really pretty. They're really well put together. And it's not just, you know, super high-end wineries, it's middle of the road, it's, you know, higher middle of the road. So I think there's ways to go about it, but the retail model versus the restaurant model is 100 percent different.

  • 12:36:18

    SCHUEMANNAbsolutely. I mean it's one of the first questions we actually ask our wineries, is what their main channels of sales are. Because, as you mentioned, if you're going to be sold in a restaurant, really what you're trying to do is look commiserate with the quality that the sommelier is talking about with the wine and maybe express a certain small story about the winery, but what it really comes down to is looking commiserate with the price they're going to be charging.

  • 12:36:40

    FISHERAnd so, David, what are some of the tricks that are used in the trade to get across that level, that question of just how expensive or high quality a bottle of wine is? Is that message contained in what's on the label?

  • 12:36:55

    SCHUEMANNWell, sometimes it's a simple elegance in just the way the elements are treated, hand-drawn typography. It could be print techniques like gold foil stamping that kind of gives it a gilded look. And then certainly there's kind of a three dimensional now quality to a lot of labels. The printing techniques now allow us to emboss textures and deboss type so that it looks like it's stamped into the label, kind of a limited edition feel. And that (unintelligible) has certainly, over the last five years, played a huge role in kind of the quality perception of certain wines.

  • 12:37:28

    ZUTANTAnd if I can jump in real quick, there was actually -- I remember when I was younger, when I like 22 or something, and I was into wine. I was always into wine even when I was young and everybody was, you know, down in 40s. But like (laugh) I remember distinctly Ecco Domani kind of came on the scene. And I was like, wow, I think those guys get it. It was like, you know, it was like Italian stuff. They were putting out like (unintelligible) and so on and so forth, but they were smart labels. You know, they weren't overly aggressive. They just seemed well put together. And so I always felt like I was buying something nicer.

  • 12:37:55

    FISHERAnd so, all right. So Sebastian Zutant is a co-owner of The Red Hen restaurant in Washington, in the Bloomingdale section. When you have customers coming in, they know it's a restaurant that has a specialty in wine. What is it that you're trying to teach them that allows them to take some skills from the restaurant experience and apply it to what they then go out and buy on their own? Is there something that they can gain from working with you on your wine list and picking something?

  • 12:38:24

    ZUTANTWell, you've been there a couple of times, so you've seen the wine list. It's pretty eclectic. I'd say that throughout my career I've been kind of lucky enough to sculpt my own like weird little section of unique wine focus. So I've always also been on the affordable side of things. So I want people to be able to come in and drink a nice bottle of wine for 40 bucks. It's really important to me. And I would say that the thing that I think people take away is the ability to go into a wine shop and literally ask for what it is that they're looking for. I think that's a lot of the problems that people have in general, is that people just kind of go in and don’t really know what to ask for.

  • 12:39:00

    ZUTANTAnd so it's really important to me to, like, help guide people, to like have those few things in their pocket, you know, just to say exactly how much you want to spend, exactly what profile you're looking for and, you know, if you want to try something completely new or if you want to stay in your wheel house. Most of my stuff is not in anybody's wheel house, though.

  • 12:39:15

    FISHER(laugh) Okay. Let's hear from Caleb, in Washington. Caleb, you're on the air.

  • 12:39:21

    CALEBGood afternoon, everybody. I just wanted to say thanks for taking my call. By the way I live about two blocks down from The Red Hen and I love eating there. Great menu, great wines. So thank you for bringing that to the neighborhood.

  • 12:39:31

    ZUTANTThanks, man.

  • 12:39:32

    CALEBMy question is -- actually it's just kind of more of a curiosity. I was wondering if you guys could tell me if you kind of see a list of -- I guess for a lack of a better term -- usual suspects or common culprits based on either, you know, kind of region or varietal where you see this kind of like, you know, glam packaging, you know, kind of flash versus quality that you see? Just out of curiosity.

  • 12:39:55

    FISHERDavid Schuemann?

  • 12:39:57

    SCHUEMANNI don't know that there -- I mean, certainly there are some regions that are known for more kind of fun packaging. I mean, Lodi, CA comes to mind with a lot of the zinfandels wave produced and brands like 7 Deadly Zins and names like that. But tend to be -- but I wouldn't say that those aren't quality wines either. They -- I think generally speaking the wines are trying to deliver at various price points that are appropriate for certain consumers.

  • 12:40:23

    SCHUEMANNLet's face it, not everyone's going to drink $100-plus cabernet from Napa Valley every night. And where we see more of the flashy, kind of fun labels I would say are at least -- would be, you know, under $15 generally speaking. And above that, certainly things get much more serious. And to be very clear, we design labels across the spectrum. We've certainly designed labels for wines that are $350-plus.

  • 12:40:49

    SCHUEMANNAnd we've done quite a bit of work in the kind of under $10 every day wine category. And it really comes down to, again, being appropriate to that category.

  • 12:40:59

    FISHERDavid Schuemann is the author of "99 Bottles of Wine: The Making of the Contemporary Wine Label" and Sebastian Zutant is co-owner of the Red Hen Restaurant in Washington. And when we continue our conversation after a short break, we'll get into the correlation between price and labels and the quality of wine and take more of your calls at 1-800-433-8850. I'm Marc Fisher. Stay with us.

  • 12:43:07

    FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher of the Washington Post sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. And we are talking about wines and wine labeling and the ways in which consumers are asked to make choices about wines with David Schuemann, the author of "99 Bottles of Wine" and Sebastian Zutant, the owner and sommelier of the Red Hen in Washington. And we were talking before the break about wine labeling and the issue of pricing came up. And, David, is there some message about price point that is communicated by a label? Or are they completely different factors?

  • 12:43:44

    SCHUEMANNDefinitely, really. I mean, one of the major challenges we see from a lot of our clients is that they've got to pack job in the marketplace that isn't performing correctly for the quality of wine and the price point that they're selling the wine out. And so when it doesn't feel like it's worth the wine that's inside, people might pass it over. And conversely, certainly, you don't want to over-package a wine and over-promise quality and then disappoint the consumer when they purchase it.

  • 12:44:12

    SCHUEMANNOne of the kind of interesting things that's going on right now is because there's so much discounting going on. And this is more related to retail sales out in grocery store or a wine shop is that a lot of the labels we're touching these days were actually designed to look a little bit more expensive that our actual price point. So it's kind of got a built-in value.

  • 12:44:31

    FISHERAnd what does that look like when you say something is designed to look more expensive? What would we might be looking for to give me that clue?

  • 12:44:39

    SCHUEMANNWell, certainly, it's not going to be as flashy or as colorful in most cases. It's going to be a little bit more traditional in style. It's going to have some of those gold foil and embossing techniques more than likely and it's probably going to have a clean, organized, simple look, generally speaking.

  • 12:44:54

    FISHEROkay. And, Sebastian, is the -- what is the connection to your understanding of the psychology of price versus quality. Do people expect that if they pay more, it's automatically a better quality? And does that in fact live out to be the truth?

  • 12:45:12

    ZUTANTWho knows? It's yet to be stated. You know, it's like you could make the same argument for art. You know, some guy named Tom Smith may be making an amazing painting that sells for 50 bucks and then Jackson Pollock sells for 50 million. And it's like, all right, you know, who really knows? And, you know, there's been many case studies where people were tasting 100.1s next to 0.1s and 0.1s won out.

  • 12:45:35

    ZUTANTSo one could argue both sides of the coin. However, that being said, I think there is an assumption and I won't necessarily say that it's a wrong one that when you start paying certain dollars, you're expecting, at the very least that the wine is being treated well, it's being well, you know, manicured and so on and so forth. For me, I really look forward -- not look forward -- but I look towards kind of like more organic (word?) wine making, which actually costs more.

  • 12:46:00

    ZUTANTFor me, I just at least know that there's a healthier approach to making the wine. So I know that I feel good about that. But in terms of -- there's a lot of gray area. You know, I don't really -- sometimes I don't really see a lot of difference between the $20 bottle and the $30 bottle. And I think a lot of people will tell you that.

  • 12:46:20

    FISHERAnd when folks in the restaurant ask you for advice, how much is price a factor in what you offer? You know, do you ask the customer, what do you want to pay?

  • 12:46:30

    ZUTANTHundred percent. I think -- I've had a half bottle of $300-wine dropped on me before by a person who I considered a friend. And at that moment I was like, I will never go through that situation again. So my question is when I walk to -- when I talk to a table is, you know, what kind of style are you looking for? And by style I mean, do you want something like fruit forward or do you want something dry and earthy?

  • 12:46:52

    ZUTANTFull bodied or light bodied and literally what do you want to spend. And, you know, it may be a little bit jarring at first. And if it's like a date situation I kind of try to, you know, whisper in the ear. But for the most part, I think it's really important that people understand that I'm not there to take money out of their pockets. So...

  • 12:47:12

    FISHERGreat. Let's hear from Noel in Annapolis. Noel, you're on the air.

  • 12:47:16

    NOELHey guys, thanks so much for the show. It's something very interesting to me. I was giving you a call because I'm actually an importer in the D.C.-Virginia area and I'm dealing with some of those kind of eclectic wines that you're talking about. I import wines from the country of Georgia, which most people don't even know is not a state and dealing with those interesting orange wines, natural biodynamic...

  • 12:47:39

    FISHERAnd actually Georgia wines on Red Hen...

  • 12:47:42

    ZUTANTI pour Pheasant's Tears by the glass.

  • 12:47:45

    NOELYeah, yeah. (unintelligible) is a great guy John Wilderman, so I'm glad that you're that. Thanks for that support. And what I wanted to ask is to sort of get your guys' feedback about, you know, there's a lot of emerging regions in, you know, Eastern Europe is now recently by the Sommelier Association of New York been called the most emerging region. And especially Georgian, you know, it's a very unique language. It doesn't look anything like anything in that region.

  • 12:48:10

    NOELAnd a lot of things -- I always (unintelligible) my producers is trying to think about, you know, foreign language on a bottle. You know, is it appealing? Does it detract from it? Is it better to sort of, if you're trying to get in to the mid-market? And then just a second question along that same line is you're talking about price and quality. I have this problem all the time is that my price to quality ratio, you know, because the foreign thing, most people think, oh, it's probably not that good.

  • 12:48:35

    NOELAnd because they've never heard of it, but then it tends to be, you know, higher quality than the price. And so it either backfires and, you know, people don't buy it because they think it's too cheap and too weird or they think it's really underselling it and that you could make more money. So those are my two questions so I'd be interested in seeing what you guys think about that.

  • 12:48:50


  • 12:48:52

    ZUTANTExcellent questions. Foreign words on labels, no problem. They've been doing it since the dawn of time. Look at Greek wines, look at French wines, they're all in other languages. So don't sweat that. You're in a good place. It's a really interesting question you ask about price point because I could tell you that I wholeheartedly think that, for example, Pheasant's Tears from Georgia is actually under priced. But I also think that I would have a hard time pouring it by the glass and putting it in people's, in front of people without it being at that price point.

  • 12:49:19

    FISHERIt's under priced because it's so good that it should cost more?

  • 12:49:22

    ZUTANTIt's unbelievably good. I mean, if Parker were scoring it, it would be a 92.1. It's big, it's juicy, it's jammy, it's got a lot of luxury in the bottle. The packaging is gorgeous.

  • 12:49:31

    FISHERAnd by under-pricing it, you think there are just a lot of people who dismiss it and say it's not worth my time?

  • 12:49:35

    ZUTANTNo, I think they're keeping the pricing low so that they can get into the market. And eventually the price will rise. But you see it with a lot of stuff. You know, Movia out of Slovenia is also, you know, you're paying 20 bucks a bottle but the wine is, you know, drinking like 80 bucks a bottle. So it's interesting.

  • 12:49:51

    FISHERHere's an email from Daniel. He says "When wine store managers greet me immediately upon entering with what can I help you find, they just don't get it at all. I don't know much if anything about wine," he says. "But when I come to wine store with a lot of selection, I want to look around for five or ten minutes on my own to see what appeals to me. Believe me, I know that when I have a question, the store manager will trip over his own feet to serve me."

  • 12:50:14

    FISHERDavid Schuemann, that kind of experience that people like Daniel want where they walk into a store and they just want to look around, even though they admit they really don't know what they're looking for. That I guess is where your labels come in to play. What is it on a label that's going to jump out at somebody like Daniel?

  • 12:50:34

    SCHUEMANNI think in general most people shop wine stores by kind of either region or kind of wine they may like. So they start with something they might be familiar with a chardonnay and then they'll kind of peruse around and look for things on the shelves, might be a shelf talker or might be a label that jumps at them, maybe that's something that they're interested in. It could be as simple as something like a horse on a label and they like horse.

  • 12:50:54

    SCHUEMANNOr it could be more sophisticated, like they really like pinot noir and they may be attracted to something that looks a little bit more Burgundian in style, some more French style label design even if it's not from France. It's certainly something we've seen a lot. It's amazing. We've even done some consumer research where consumers actually perceive the same wine differently from the two different package designs.

  • 12:51:17

    SCHUEMANNSo we paid -- poured the same wine in two different package designs. And one may look a little more expensive and one may look a little more friendly and they perceived the taste of the wine completely different out of those two bottles. It's pretty amazing.

  • 12:51:28

    FISHERWow. So when you go about designing a label, are you looking for those kinds of behaviors that you know exist out there or are you actually more interested...

  • 12:51:38

    SCHUEMANNAbsolutely. Certainly -- there are certain consumers that are looking for different, either quality queues or signals to them that it's going to be the kind of wine that they're looking for. And different demographics look for different source of those queues and we try to incorporate those on a label. So they attract them on shelves, but just as importantly they can recall the wine they had, you know, at a restaurant or maybe last week at their friend's house. And that's one of the more difficult things I think even myself, I fall prey to is remembering the wine I tried that I wasn't familiar with before.

  • 12:52:12

    FISHERGive me an example of those different demographics you mentioned and what appeals to them. Give a couple of examples of designs that work for one group or another.

  • 12:52:21

    SCHUEMANNSure. Well, there's -- certainly millenials are a group that gets talked about a lot. And I think maybe over-homogenized at times. But certainly they like to discover new wines. They like to discover new regions. They're much more adventurous than, say, a baby boomer kind of aged wine consumer. They're going to be not -- they'll be more open to kind of a little bit more fun labels. They don't need quite as much reinforcement.

  • 12:52:47

    SCHUEMANNIt doesn't need to look near as classic. Whereas someone who's more sophisticated wine consumer or older demographic and let's say more of an East Coast purchaser might be -- tends to be much more classic in their design aesthetic. They like European wine labels more, the kind of more French look to it.

  • 12:53:09

    FISHERAnd who -- what's the demographic that you're trying to appeal to with all of these wine labels that are brand names that are really bad puns or naughty words? It does seem to be two growth areas. Who are they going after with those?

  • 12:53:24

    SCHUEMANNYou know, I think that's kind of a broad audience. It probably spans from kind of a, you know, legal drinking age up to, you know, even baby boomers. It's an every day kind of wine. It's the don't over think it, I'm going to be good and delicious and kind of fun and you can take to me to the backyard barbecue.

  • 12:53:40

    FISHERSebastian, David brought up an interesting question about an area of great frustration for many wine buyers which is how do you remember the wine you loved? Somebody came to the Red Han and they had a great wine and three weeks later they're in a store and they just have no memory of it. Is there a trick that you use to remember wines?

  • 12:53:58

    ZUTANTYes, it's magical. It's called the smartphone. Take these crazy things called pictures on your cameras. No, I mean, we're lucky in the fact that everybody carries a camera with them all the time now. And honestly, that's the best way to go about it, writing it down on your hand isn't going to help or anything and no one's got that good of a memory especially when they've had three bottles of wine.

  • 12:54:18

    FISHERRight. So and do you find that having the photo of the label triggers the memory of the taste?

  • 12:54:26

    ZUTANTNo, it's more of a reference point than anything else. But, you know, in reference to the email that was sent, you know, that's a perfect way to go about it. You know, if you know what you're into at that period of time, you know, just walk into a store and say, this is what I'm into. This is how much I want to spend. Tell me about what you have. I don't want to drink what I already drank, but show me something new.

  • 12:54:46

    FISHERLet's quickly go to George in Arlington. George, you're on the air.

  • 12:54:50

    GEORGEHey guys. Yeah, my problem with labels is not so much the fun or the colors or the pictures but what's on the little tiny print on the back. And I'm vegan. I've been looking for vegan wines for a while. And even the guys who claim to be specialists often when you go into a wine store don't know where the vegan wine is. You have to go look to organic wines or kosher wines that way. And I was recently in Trader Joes looking at the cheap wines and just pulled up a Spanish wine.

  • 12:55:17

    GEORGELooked at back and a tiny print it was vegan. And when I looked through my list of four pages of vegan products, Trader Joes didn't even know they owned it. So I think with the way things are trending these days, I know vegan is a very small part of the country, but animal blood, animal products that are used to, (word?) agents for wines obviously put vegans off. And it would be good if the labels and the people who could describe the wines knew where to find them.

  • 12:55:43


  • 12:55:44

    SCHUEMANNWell, I think you're going to see a lot more of this kind of thing developing in the market, fortunately for you. There is a push to try to get more nutritional's put onto the back of wine labels in the U.S. I don't know if we'll ever see a day where there's a full nutritional outlay, but there's definitely a contingent out there that's aware of people that are not only interested in organics but also in vegan products and certainly on some of the spirits we work. There's definitely a large push towards gluten free products as well.

  • 12:56:15

    FISHERSebastian, David mentioned earlier the question of millenials and whether they are approaching wine at a different way from others. In the time that you've had the Red Hen, have you seen a change at all? Have you seen trends emerging in demand from younger customers?

  • 12:56:32

    ZUTANTYeah, for sure. Again, the fun thing about -- one of the fun things about the restaurant is the fact is that it's super eclectic. And as you were saying, the younger group is certainly open to new ideas. So I get to push a lot of like really interesting weird stuff on the younger group.

  • 12:56:48

    FISHERSuch as what?

  • 12:56:48

    ZUTANTAnd like the orange ones, for example. The only thing about the eclectic wines is they often come at a higher price point. But I've been able to kind of like really, really, really search and curate this really fun little list where I've been able to kind of find unique kind of interesting things. And I think that they younger group is very, very ambitious and really kind of like into the idea of finding stuff that their mom and dad didn't drink. So there's not a lot of Bordeaux on my list. There's one bottle of Burgundy and...

  • 12:57:19

    FISHERBut there are wines from Slovenia and Georgia.

  • 12:57:21

    ZUTANTOh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And that's what I sell the most. And the young contingents certainly is into it.

  • 12:57:27

    FISHERYou sell those Eastern European wines more than the French wines?

  • 12:57:30

    ZUTANTYeah. Yeah.

  • 12:57:32


  • 12:57:32

    ZUTANTYeah, yeah. They're hustling.

  • 12:57:33

    FISHERAnd is it because it's a novelty that people are going for that?

  • 12:57:37

    ZUTANTI think also a lot of it has to do with the fact that my staff is really excited about it. You know, it's an interesting kind of approach to a wine program. And so my staff is really excited about it, I'm excited about it. So I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we kind of push it. But I think everybody wants to try new stuff. You know, I think that everybody had just been told to drink pinot noir and cabernet and Syrah for the last 50 years. And the rest of the world has been making all these other things for a long period of time.

  • 12:58:02

    FISHERSebastian Zutant is co-owner and sommelier of the Red Hen restaurant in Washington in the Bloomingdale section. I should check it out. David Schuemann is the author of "99 Bottles of Wine: The Making of the Contemporary Wine Label." He's also the owner and creative director of CF Napa Brand Design. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Marc Fisher of the Washington Post sitting in for Kojo. Thanks for being here.

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