The year’s hottest—and edgiest—wine labels are not a cover-up for mediocre wines. Au contraire, mes amis. Inside the bottles of Lost Inhibitions red and white blends is yet more proof that Church & State Wines are among the best in the country. With 5 awards for Best Canadian Red since 2009 and 3 more for Best White Blend since 2012, and scores as high as 95 from Decanter, the brain trust at Church and State could have rested on their laurels and savoured the sweet smell of success.

But with maturing vineyards and a string of great vintages allowing the winery’s production to double to 20,000 cases came the desire to create two staple wines—“foundation wines”, as the winery’s marketing manager John Pullen describes them—that would over deliver for the price. “These wines would be exemplary of the style and quality you would expect from Church & State, introducing new people to winery and portfolio. These two wines would take everything we’ve learned from a decade of viticulture and winemaking and present it in a unique, South Valley style. We wanted these wines to show our style and focus on quality to a broader group of wine drinkers.”

But how to sell them in a market that offers consumers thousands of choices?

“The biggest difficulty with introducing a new line like this is that it has to be compelling enough for people to just want to pick it up and try it,” John says. “In essence it had to be so interesting just sitting on the shelf that it gets the first chance, and then having the wine in the bottle be impressive enough that people would want to get it again, and again.”

Enter design guru Bernie Hadley-Beauregard, whose Brandever firm has won countless awards for labels like Blasted Church and Dirty Laundry. Bernie has a simple belief that drives what he does. “The label gets the first date, the wine gets the second.”

“I think we have a lot in common with Bernie and the way he looks at things,” John says. “With this new project we were envisioning he was a perfect fit. He brought his whole team and dropped by the tasting bar unannounced. It was a weekend in August, so our outdoor patio tasting bar was at full clip. I think we had a Queen concert playing, kids are running around on the lawn, their parents sitting at the bar on the edge of the bowl tasting wine or relaxing with a glass. The winery is a pretty wild spot, really upbeat. We play a lot of rock concerts and it’s generally just a really fun place to be. There are not many tasting bars with such a vibrant atmosphere–it’s really a unique experience.

“When we spoke with Bernie the next week, he said he couldn’t connect our labels to the staff and environment at the winery. We decided together on creating a new series that captured the vibe at the Coyote Bowl tasting bar–something that complimented the serious, traditional style of our Church & State labels.”

“There is an incredible amount of cheap wine that is embellished with faux-chateau labels, the lipstick-on-a-pig scenario,” Bernie says. “People believe that it must be good if it has such a stately label. That, to me, is a disservice.” Consumers, he says, are overwhelmed by choice.

Brandever and Church and State went to work, creating the Lost Inhibitions series of 100 labels, each containing a phrase that will trigger a memory from conversations past. “We worked with Bernie to create Lost Inhibitions,” says John. “His team put in countless hours crafting each letter, which were hand cut and stitched from felts and fabrics – in all Karen and Emily created over 1,200 letters and symbols.”

 

I EARNED THIS. IT’S NOT ME IT’S YOU. OOPS I JUST HIT SEND.

It must have been tempting to create a “Collect them all!” ad campaign. But that would ignore the fact that inside the bottles is very fine wine. Like the Best White Blend at the 2015 All-Canadian Wine Championships. CLASSY SASSY SMART-ASSY.

And the series will grow. People are invited to participate in a contest this summer where they send in their phrase suggestions. And people on social media can vote for their favourites.

“The top 100 or so will be added to the collection and go on next vintage,” John says.  “So the wine will continue as this sort of social snapshot of the vintage each year, continuing to evolve, reflecting the people that drink them.”

HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?

~Lorne Eckersley

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