Felton’s packaging philosophy

Blair Walter (pictured) of Felton Road Wines said the label design hasn’t changed since the first release 21 years ago. They have chosen a fairly traditional format and plan to continue with it. (Photo: Felton Road Wines)

A chance remark from a fellow wine enthusiast made me wonder if producers of premium wines in this country pay enough attention to packaging.

“Wooden boxes, big bottles and tissue paper are not part of our game. We’d rather add value viticulturally.” – Blair Walter

We were enthusing about Felton Road in general and their pinot noir in particular when my friend frowned and said,

“I can’t believe how a winery like Felton Road can package great pinot noir in such a lightweight bottle and dress it with an old-fashioned label.”

Until that moment I hadn’t given Felton Road packaging much thought. It stands out in a crowd, which is good, but does it short-change the wine experience now that Block 3 and Block 5 Pinot Noir have cracked through the NZD $100 barrier which, by my definition, moves them into the luxury goods category?

I phoned winemaker, Blair Walter, to get his response.

Blair was surprised by the criticism.

“We’ve had dozens, if not hundreds of compliments for our packaging over the years. This is the first negative comment I have heard.”

“Our label design hasn’t changed since our first release 21 years ago. We have chosen a fairly traditional format and plan to continue with it. The classic wine labels of Europe don’t change much at all so why should we?”

“We have chosen the lightest bottle on the market out of concern for the environment. When a bottle of New Zealand wine lands on a dining table in Europe close to 60% of its carbon cost is the bottle. As part of our sustainable philosophy, we aim to minimise that cost. I regard big bottles as old-fashioned given the environmental issues that we face today. Our pinot noir bottle weighs 417 grams.” Big bottles can weigh well over 1 kilogram.

“Wooden boxes, big bottles and tissue paper are not part of our game. We’d rather add value viticulturally.”

Blair sent me a lengthy and impressive document detailing their sustainable practices using compost, biodynamics, goats to manage sweet briar rose on the hillside, New Zealand falcons to reduce bird damage, clean waterways and dams, vegetable gardens, waste minimisation and recycling, energy efficiency, no excess packaging and lightweight bottles. They even dispense beer from kegs during vintage to reduce the use of glass! Felton Road clearly walks the walk.

One thought on “Felton’s packaging philosophy”

  1. Steve Jiggins says:

    Well done Felton Road. I am impressed by their philosophy. There is nothing more annoying than seeing wineries with long established brands pouring money into what is seen as on-trend packaging. In many cases these are obviously ill-advised because you see a radically different design within a vintage or two. Australian premiums, like Penfolds Grange, haven’t changed much since their first vintage in 1952. One of the most successful marketing campaigns ever in Australia, for Mortein fly spray, ran with the motto “If you are on a good thing stick to it”. Good advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *