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Harpers Design Awards 2009

Published:  29 April, 2009

The 2009 Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review Design Awards are awarded to the best launches and redesigns of the past 12 months.  They are judged by a panel of experts drawn from both the drinks and the design and packaging industries.

The 2009 Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review Design Awards are awarded to the best launches and redesigns of the past 12 months. They are judged by a panel of experts drawn from both the drinks and the design and packaging industries.

Those judges principally look for three things from the entrants. First, they ask themselves how well the product's design fulfils its brief. Second, they want to know if it suits its target market. And third, does it have that wow factor, the looks that will make it stand out from the crowd on a supermarket shelf or behind the bar.

In our opinion, all of the medal winners you can see over the following pages succeed on all three counts, while the best in class - the trophy winners in each category - are among the best and most effective designs currently in circulation in today's drinks industry.

So congratulations to all our winners. We hope you enjoy looking at them as much as we did.

The judges

Angela Mount, Mount & Paul Consultants

Sid Russell, head designer, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Lee Sharkey, publisher, Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review

Lynne Whitaker, Winebrand Consultants

David Williams, freelance drinks writer

Best Spirit Range and Best Overall Design - Esterhazy Wein Spirit Range

Austrian wine and spirit producer Esterhazy has a long, proud tradtion of drinks production going back to the 17th Century. So it's no surprise that when it came to presenting its range of premium spirits the company wanted to communicate some of that heritage in the bottle and label designs.

The problem was how to communicate all that history without becoming irrelevant to today's drinker, a problem that has defeated countless producers in categories as diverse as Cognac, port, wine and whisky.

Fortunately, Esterhazy has come up with a solution that not only met its brief, but was also, according to judge David Williams, "easily the most attractive packaging we've seen today".

That solution draws on the Chinese wallpaper that has adorned the walls of the lounges of the Esterhazy Palace in Burgenland since the 18th Century. Each label in the range takes a single detail from the wallpaper, and places it in the clean modern context of a white label featuring modern typography alongside the family's traditional coat of arms. The bottles themselves use premium glass in attractive, squat bottle shapes.

Williams was not alone. "It's a a lovely label, with an unusual bottle, but really good looking," said Sid Russell. Lynne Whitaker was even more effusive. "Beautiful packaging - both the bottle and the outer carton," Whitaker said. "Really exqusite production values."

A worthy winner, then, of this year's top prize.

Best Sparkling - Cono Sur Sparkling

Cono Sur has long had a reputation for being one of Chile's more stylish producers. That's all in keeping with the original blueprint for the company, which was to be a modern, forward thinking alternative to parent company Concha y Toro, itself no slouch in that regard. The latest addition to the range seamlessly incorporates those brand values, while still managing to be distinctive in its own right. As the judges said: "This is very modern and striking with great stand-out. It looks premium, and has a great, distinctive bottle shape."

Best Wine Range  - Coltiva Quanto Basta

Quarter bottles are one of the key growth sectors in the wine market at the moment, thanks to a mix of health concerns and the desire to serve by-the-glass in as fresh a  way as possible. But few companies have given the sector the attention to detail that Italian producer Cantine Coltiva has with Quanto Basta (which means "How much is enough?"). This range of nine wines from across Italy is, in the words of the judges, "just beautifully done, with a really premium feel. The bottle shapes are a real standout, they look great on the table and the branding is consistent across the range."

Best Innovation - Balance

The bag-in-box is not, you would have to say, the most glamorous of packaging formats. All too often you get the impression the design has been an afterthought, a kind of necessary evil that relies for its design on cues taken from the bottled wine version of a brand. So hats off to design agency dare for giving a new and funky lease of life to the wine box, with this innovative 1.5litre pack for Kingsland Wine & Spirit's new range. There's wit, style and a pleasingly tactile feel, and the brand message of environmental sensitivity is confidently conveyed without being preachy.

Best Spirit - Tobermory

Design agency Good Creative pulled out all the visual stops for this special edition 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch from Burn Stewart. And the judges loved the attention to detail applied to every part of the packaging, from the specially commissioned water colour of Tobermory Bay on the tissue paper wrapping, to the  fine dark-gold oak of the box. The cumulative effect was, in the words of the judges, "both reassuring and premium". A case of job, unequivocally, done.

Best RTD - West Eleven Cocktails

The guys at design agency Navy Blue were given a mighty tricky brief for West Eleven Cocktails. They were asked to communicate to both trade and consumers that these premium packaged spirits were capable of reproducing the genuine "cocktail experience" at home and in bars. They also had to avoid any associations with the dreaded alcopops, and all the while stand out effectively on shelf. They deserve huge credit for doing just that, with bottles that the judges said had "a nice hand made feel, which captures the authenticity of the product well".

Best wine: Hemspiel

Not all brands last forever. But then, not all brands are supposed to. Take Hemspiel, for example. Here is the very definition of a special occasion wine, from  designed specifically for use in the Swiss and Austrian on-trade during last summer's Euro 2008 football tournament (which was co-hosted by both nations), with the blend taken from wines produced in both countries. The judges loved its fun and original take on football nostalgia, and its clean and modern approach. Indeed, based on the design alone, it's a shame it won't be around any longer.

Clarens Jung, from design agency Glasmeyer, Jung, Schreiter Kiel, says: "The aim of this label was to create a witty approach for a wine to be served in the Swiss and Austrian gastronomy during the time of the European football championships in Austria and Switzerland last summer. We named the wine, which is a cuvée from the Austrian varietal Blauer Zweigelt and the Swiss varietal Pinot Noir, "Heimspiel" (homegame) and used a letter type reminding of a score board. As a visual link to the football championships we chose the ball and the men (in their football shirts) of the very popular Tipp-Kick game."

Best Fortified: Croft Pink

The reinvention of port is a much-discussed project. How do you make it appeal to a new, younger, female audience without risking alienation to its loyal, if slightly conservative, consumer base? For the Fladgate Group, the answer was Croft Pink, which is an attempt to tap into the current voracious appetite among light wine drinkers for rosé. What makes the packaging so successful here is the sheer amount of information it manages to convey, without being either too flashy, as may befit such a radical wine, or disregarding port's heritage. This is clean, modern, and clearly pink. But it also looks classic and authentic.

Best Design Agency: The Brand Union

There were other design agencies with more entries this year. And their were others with more trophy winners. But the consistent quality of Brand Union's work for Diageo's Classic Malts whisky range made it a deserved winner of this year's Best Design Agency trophy. Not that the company necessarily needs our help. With 21 offices worldwide, from Abu Dhabi to Cairo, Shanghai, Dublin and London, employing 500 people, The Brand Union doesn't exactly lack clients. Indeed with names such as the Barclays Premier League, Vodafone and Unilever on its books, The Brand Union is one of the world's biggest and best design and branding consultancies.

Gold medal winners

Elements of Islay


Grant Burge Moscato

Auchentoshan Single Malt Range


Port Ellen

Silver medal winners



Point West

Bowmore Craftsmen's Collection


Vina Zamporia


Gusto Glusto

Sainsbury's own-label wine range

Selección del Directorio Cabernet Sauvignon


Notas de Guarda

Linkwood 26 Year Old

Bollinger x 2

35 South Organic



McGuigan Grey Label

Otterbrook Mill

Bronze medal winners

Wakefield Jaraman


Glenmorangie Astar


1865 Single Vineyard

Le Fou

The Devil's Peak


Tullamore Dew



Cono Sur Range

Veuve du Vernay

La Poderosa

Palacio de Villachica

Bowmore Premier Range

Palais des Anciens

Caliterra range

Santa Helena Don