UNA – celebrating Italian unification?

So, this is the wine that officially marked the 150th anniversary of Italian unification?

UNA on The Dieline Packaging Blog

Click on image for further images

I just came across this link via the excellent packaging blog The Dieline, although this is actually a 2 year old project by Cibic Workshop on behalf of Vinitaly.

Let me start by saying that I LOVE Italy. Honestly I do. I grew up there and for many years was more Italian than British, but I think I love the IDEA of Italy more than the actual place (PLEASE do take the time to watch the excellent documentary film: “Girlfriend in a Coma” on this subject which prompted me to be thinking about Italy).

This wine concept just says so much about what appears to be wrong with the country today.

The design is minimalist and elegant, Italy does design well, yet it is also arrogant, sexist and self-indulgent.

The effect is at the simultaneously minimal and overdesigned. It is elegant, but it also feels like it is trying just a bit too hard to be cool. The illusion is easily shattered.

The wine themselves are each blends of 20 indigenous varieties which sounds like a good idea, but makes you wonder what you get out of the experience when it says little about the real wines of Italy. The irony is that these wines fall foul of all the MANY (DOCG, IGT, etc.) laws in place intended to uphold the quality of Italian wine.

Where is the information that informs the owner of the bottle? Where is the pride in Italy, its history and culture? All you get is a tiny label with the bottle number, the dates (1861 – 2011) and the prosaic “Red/White Wine of Italy”. Minimalism is taken to an extreme that implies there is nothing else that can, or needs to be, said.

Is it actually more likely that there is nothing else that they could agree to display? Is it arrogance, or evidence of lack of real cooperation and understanding? Is the message of the bottle marking unification that the country is actually still highly divided and mistrustful?

The bottle shapes are also typically sexist ideas. To quote from the release:

“The couple is the symbol of unity itself, the two bottles evoke a male and a female, and so the red wine bottle is a strong man and the white wine bottle is a elegant and slender woman.”

Yawn! Another strong male and his slim, attractive female partner. Seems that sexual politics have not changed that much since 1861 then?

Then to self-indulgence.

“To open it you need a key, an instrument that symbolizes the precious wine in it.
The key is the archetype of loyalty and trust towards the people they are entrusted to.”

Does the key symbolise loyalty and trust? I would have thought the opposite. You lock it away because you can’t trust anyone.

No, the key is a symbol of the fact that what might be good about Italy is being designed to death, layered with expensive trappings, then locked away from the world so that it remains aloof and unreal, a collectors’ item for those with lots of money and not interested in the realities of where this comes from. Is this the real message?

Sorry Italy. This is not what I remember or fell in love with.


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  • Italian

    Talking about wine thinking at policy can lead to misunderstandings.

    Italy is not Berlusconi and there are many people in our country that, despite this man, every day do their best.

    Talking about sexism describing this wine and this bottle is uncalled for, offensive and based on prejudices that have nothing to do with Italy honest people.

    Describing Italy as a “highly divided and mistrustful” country, a place “you can’t trust anyone”, it would be like to mention the UK citing only the problems of Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Masons. Uninformed indeed …

    There is no sexist intent in talking about traditional images, nor symbols of dishonesty in quoting a key.

    Italian wine is done by people working the land with high culture. So please, “raise the level”.
    Every country has its problems, but racism ruling is always intolerable.

    • http://thirstforwine.co.uk thirstforwine

      Thank you for your comment. Language is an issue of course, for all of us. Let me set your mind at ease over a couple of these points and to point out that I am commenting about the choices made by the designers, the clients who commissioned them and approved their choices, and the many organisations involved in the project.

      I am bothered that the implications of the design highlight the areas where Italy is failing, rather than those where it is, and always has, succeeded.

      1. I am not sure how you equate my comment about the bottles as somehow a criticism of honest Italian people. I would similarly criticise any designer who chooses the terms “strong” for male and “slender” for woman as if these were universal truths. This is by definition, sexism – a concept based on lazy sexual stereotypes.

      2. The comment about Italy being highly divided was a reflection on the “unification” theme of the design. Italy is still a highly divided country; whether North/South, regionally, and in wine terms, even village by village. We constantly see new wine regions begin created to separate ever smaller parcels from other ones. I therefore used the term “mistrustful” (as opposed to, say “untrustworthy”) to indicate people do not trust others, not that they are not to be trusted – there is an important difference.

      (oh, and I never said other places do not suffer their own issues of ‘unity’, but we are discussing Italy here)

      3. As for the key being a symbol of dishonesty, I laughed at the idea that somehow the key “symbolised trust” as claimed by the designers. It doesn’t, it implies the opposite. If you need a key, you need a lock. If you need a lock it is because you cannot leave an item unguarded. This is not “trust”. The “trust” the designer implies is one of guardianship – and I don’t much like the idea of a small elite being given guardianship over the symbols of Italian unity either – do you?

      4. It is EXACTLY because real Italian wine is made by real Italian people working the land that I found this concept troubling. I would much rather have seen the work of Italian experts who love their land being celebrated, not buried underneath this fake design.

      I hope I have clarified my intention and you realise that in general terms, you and I are in agreement. Certainly no ‘racism’ was intended.


      • Italian

        Thank you for your answer. I see you are trying to define more and more the subject of your criticism as you did not in your original post.

        Your post seemed more the discrimination of a country than a criticism to a celebrative wine concept (a celebrative wine, not a commercial bottle), and this seems non-sense and a bit racist to me, next time please try not to generalize so much.

        I do not want to start an endless controversy, but i can say I disagree with you this time either.

        Just one detail: I don’t see sexism here. I could understand your position if the all world would be the same of London City Center, but you maybe don’t know that in photos of italian farmers of the past, the time of flasks designers write about, “strong” and “slender” (two figurative adjectives since we are talking about bottles) describe a “picture of the tradition”, residual images of a past time more physical and less concerned about the political correctness of today and not a contemporary sexual perversion.

  • http://vinosambiz.blogspot.com Fabio (Vinos Ambiz)

    Just to say that in my opinion, those two wine bottles simply don’t represent the Italy that I know and love. Nor do they don’t represent any part of the wine world at all that I know and love! I don’t doubt that technically and professionally, they’re a work of art as far as design is concerned. In fact they’re so professional that they could have been designed and produced by any multi-national, multi-cultural design team, and made to represent any country or region in the world just by changing the colours on those bits of ribbon!
    Those bottles would be fine for presidents, prime ministers, ambassadors, CEOs, royalty, aristocrats, etc, but I don’t see where the vast majority of wine-drinking people come into the picture. For me, that design and presentation is elitist, snobbish and unrepresentative of grape-growers, winemakers and wine consumers everywhere including Italy.