• Annina Francis

Behind the Bottle: Adapting labels for the US export market

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Photo Credit: Reeve Wines

Developing sales abroad is one of the dreams of many wineries in the region. With the French market becoming more and more saturated, many companies are looking to conquer new markets where sales growth has become more attainable. One of the first questions that face many companies is what changes must be made to the product in order to be able to sell it in the US. Fond of French culture, the Languedoc is a market which is developing increasingly in the US with interesting prices, much lower than other regions, allowing for Americans to enjoy the "French Touch" at a great price.

The three tier system in the US is one of the very first differentiating elements of this market. Highly influenced by its prohibitionist past, the market is seperated in importers, distributors and retailers in order to better protect its customers. This specificity is an important factor when determinig the final product price as each agent has their own margin. As a result wine prices in the US rarely desend lower than the 15$ mark.

Customer preferences are also very different in the US compared to France. The french system is above all based on origin with a big focus on the appellation or the IGP. This is completely different to the US where the most important element on a bottle is the varietal. Customers will often stay with the same varietal if they know that they like it. As a result it's important to focus on selling well known varietals as they will do best in the market.

Reeve Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2015

Photo Credit: Reeve Wines

Label Specificities

Simple streamlined labels

As you can see depicted in the image above, American wine labels are very streamlined and just like this one search for a more simple look with less decorative elements and unnecessary information. Apart from the brand name one of the most important parts of the label is the varietal. This is in line with American customer preferences and goes quite contrary to the french labels where some wines won't even tell you what varietals make up the wines.

Label Regulations

Before going any further it's important to note that wine label regulations vary depending on the state.

The Government Warning

The following health statement label is required on every bottle as soon as the alcoholic beverage contains more than O,5% alcohol by volume:

The Varietal

The varietal is an important part of the label but contrary to the regulations in France only 75% of the wine needs to be of a particular varietal for the varietal to be inscribed on the label. So contrary to popular belief despite thinking that most Americans drink varietal wines it is quite possible that in fact most varietal wines in the US are in fact blends.

The Importer

Moreover for imported wines it is an obligation to have the name of the importer inscribed on the label. This is an important regulation to take into consideration before starting to sell to the US as it may increase costs, needing a different label for each importer used. Some wineries get around this complication by mass producing general labels for the US market and then producing individual strips with just the name of the importer.

For more information on label regulations please consult: www.ttb.gov


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