"I think you should check out the ones they call the elements…"

by Katie Pizzuto on March 5, 2010

in Labels,marketing

Every once in a while I find a wine label concept that oozes coolness. One that the geek in me ogles and says, “Wow, I wish I had thought of that.” And its cool factor is tripled if the concept is broad enough in scope that it encompasses all the winery’s labels, and even spills into their website, because that is the mark of true brand identity. The problem is that sometimes, the cool label is designed to compensate for an inferior product—sometimes. But when I find that perfect combination of über-cool brand identity and top-rate product…well, my fingers can’t type fast enough.

I have no doubt that the folks over at Wines of Substance are geeks, and I say that with all the endearment and affection I can possibly muster, cuz that’s how I roll. I’m sure it’s not the first time I’ve uttered this sentence, but I first came across these guys in a Garagiste offer that included their Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet, all 2007s. The concept for all their wines is based on the Periodic Table of the Elements, with each wine representing an “element” on the grid (take a look at their website and you’ll quickly understand). It’s about creating the best possible single-varietal wine their soil can make—about focusing on the raw material, not the “make up”. In essence, what Europe’s been doing for centuries but often gets neglected in the US. If Substance isn’t a winery to be reckoned with, I don’t know who is.

With so many wineries attempting to gain the attention of the “younger generation” under the misguided assumption that it needs its wine dumbed down, Substance finds itself in the unique position of being able to pull off “cool” while it educates…all for under $20 a bottle. Their production is low, their standard is high and their wine is fucking fantastic—a standard unit of measurement, I assure you. Each wine’s label is designed to look just like the Periodic Table’s elements, right down to the atomic weight in the top left corner and the two-letter representation of the element…I mean, varietal. And the website is so creatively designed and interactive that you actually find yourself longing to go visit your 8th grade chemistry teacher. But more than that, these wines accomplish what they set out to do—be superb varietals. They are balanced, transparent and expressive of the grape and the land. If I could, I’d keep gushing about Substance, but the fact of the matter is that the more I gush, the more likely you are to go order some, and that would mean less for me. On second thought, they suck. Stay away. Bunch of dweebs making piss water. Not worth their weight in sand. Yeah, that’s it. Major suck-o-rama over there.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 smokenmirrors March 7, 2010

I needed to check my Robert Parker dossier to determine what his qualifications were for a fucking fantastic rating. I guess my RP data is not up to date. Katie, is a f f rating like a 95 or something? All kidding aside, for many years when I find a bottle previously untried, before I purchase will look first at the label, then the quality of the bottle itself and the foil
used, check for a substantial punt and if all these elements are in place, I will
throw down my hard earned dollars and purchase the juice.
That said from now on I will only purchase wines that are advertised in stores using fucking fantastic as the high mark in a rating system.
Wide Awake in New Jersey


2 Katie Pizzuto March 7, 2010

Screw RP….an FF rating comes from the Gonzo rating scale, not the Parker one. Wines are either:
US: Undrinkable Swill
NC: Nearly Crap
M: Mehh
TQ: Totally Quaffable
OH: Off the Hizzle
FF: Fucking Fantastic

I agree with you Mike. Presentation isn’t merely in the design on the label, it’s on the complete production package. But when in doubt, look for the shelf talkers with FF ratings. They will no doubt be inversely proportional to the RP ratings.


3 Don March 8, 2010

I’m not much of a Washington Wine guy, but you know I have said before that the Vintner makes a huge difference. If these guys are so scientifically minded, chances are their wines will be Fucking Fantastic! Total FF on the Gonzo Scale! I’ll look for these guys out here, and the cool thing is their labels are so unique I should be able to spot them very easily. Good to know Katie. Thanks.



4 castello March 8, 2010

That is a fun website. I’ll try it again after I finish this bottle. Spinning?


5 jaimelia March 9, 2010

Washington wine rocks!

Here endeth the lesson. 🙂


6 Katie Pizzuto March 9, 2010

Cool site, isn’t it Ed? Easily the best winery website concept I’ve ever seen.

@Don, they may be a little hard to find in stores because production is very small, but you can order from their website. Have had the syrah, the cab franc and the merlot….all great. In fact, I’ve gotta order more!


7 Coupe 60 March 10, 2010

Is there any truth to the rumor that Wines of Substance paid you $50 for that review?


8 Katie Pizzuto March 10, 2010

No truth at all, Lou, though i hear Vintage Cellars offered Substance $50 to shut me up 😉


9 Greg Harrington March 30, 2010

Yes, we here at Substance are definitely geeks. But we are geeks who got sick of drinking garbage at $20 a bottle. So we decided to do it ourselves. We shoot for OH and FF quality.

In seriousness, most of the wine that goes into Substance comes for wine that didn’t make the Gramercy or Waters Winery cut. We also have some dedicated vineyards.


10 Katie Pizzuto March 30, 2010

Thanks for stopping by, Greg. Recently had to opportunity to try Gramercy’s 2007 Syrah via the Hospice du Rhone’s Taste Live event, and that was also, without question, an FF wine. I know I gushed then, but will gush again now: superbly balanced, both floral and earthy, and a great cigar wine!!!


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