Matsu Old Man, photo by
Matsu El Viejo, ‘Old Man’. Design by Moruba, photo by Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda

A striking use of photography and an imaginatively simple concept delivers Moruba design a barrell-load of awards for their wine label

My father would rather die of thirst than drink a non-Italian wine and, for him, the idea of drinking wine from a box is one of Dante’s circles of hell. I on the other hand have no loyalty when it comes to wine, my purchasing decisions are a combo of taste, price and packaging. I’m easily put off by the trend in wine comedy names, as much by its shouty informality as anything, but am passionate and shallow when it comes to being seduced by label design.

And then there’s this.

Design by Moruba, photo by
Design by Moruba, photo by Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda

On a recent visit to my local wine store, the label called across the floor. Photos of three faces, side by side, a suite of bottles On closer inspection even the name of the wine, Matsu, is tucked away in the bottom corner of the label. In a world of label design, of script, crests and heraldry, using photography requires serious belief in the design concept and the photography. The label was designed by the Moruba agency in Spain a studio comprising of Daniel Morales, Javier Euba and Teresa Rodriguez.

Javier Euba explains below that the photographs were taken by Catalan photographers Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda, who are based between Barcelona and New York. The facial portraits say ‘character’, the lined faces, the direct eye contact that you only ever get to see on the cover of a magazine or album sleeve. It is more akin to a rock’n’roll photo, Patti Smith via Mapplethorpe, the lighting, the expression of time and ageing. The age of the faces display the age of the wine and each face has a name: ‘El Picaro’ Rogue; ‘El Regio’ the Tough Guy; ‘El Viejo’ the Old Man.  70 year old vines, 100 year old vines, 130 year old vines.

It’s such a simple idea, with stripped-back labelling, and visuals. And that’s the weird thing. This is so thought through, so considered, so unconventional with none of the familiar design codes of wine – yet you can almost smell the vineyard. This is how you create the idea of ‘soul’.

The studio were no doubt toasting the many awards they won with this campaign with a glass of Matsu or two. Javier Euba talks to us about the project.

Your work for vineyards is very versatile. How many wine labels have you designed?

Javier Euba: The truth of the matter is that there are many ways of understanding wine, and each project is different; in recent years there have been perhaps more than 30, taking into account redesigns and new brands.

Which designers/designs have inspired you in wine label design?

Javier Euba: We draw on all the available sources, taking our inspiration from the great designers, artists, photographers and the like. However, the conceptual aspect of our work is more important than the formal: first we have to ask “why?” before searching for the best graphical solution.

What kinds of direction do you get in a conventional brief for a wine label? Around audiences for example?

Javier Euba: As I said to you before, each wine is different, and sometimes they coincide with the target audience and sometimes they don’t. It depends on the market, the competition… there are a thousand variables. But as a classic example, for Rioja there are certain basic elements that – depending on the focus of the wine – have to be included, the same as for Bordeaux wines, e.g. a chateau or castle, classic typefaces, clear backgrounds, etc.

'El Picaro'
‘El Picaro’. Design by Moruba, photo by Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda

What was the brief for Matsu and why did you decide to use photography?

Javier Euba: The Matsu project is one of the most important and far-reaching we’ve worked on in the wine industry. Matsu is a wine produced from a biodynamic vineyard in the PDO area of Toro in Spain; the name means “hope” in Japanese, and conceptually speaking a Spanish wine with a Japanese name already says a lot. Visually, the design had to be very attractive while making a break from what has gone before, in order to express the fact that this wine is different. Matsu has especially strong links to the land and is made in a highly unique way, so the conceptual conclusion is that a wine is like a person, defined by its environment, which impacts upon it and makes it evolve. That’s why we used top-quality photographic portraits: Matsu is a collection of three wines that have been aged for different lengths of time, which allowed us to create a family with a father, son and grandfather. The collection works very well both as a set and as separate bottles.

 'El Recio'
‘El Recio’. Design by Moruba, photo by Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda

Who was the photographer and what was their brief?

Javier Euba: The photographers we chose were Bela Adler and Salvador Fresneda. They’re based in Barcelona and we loved their fashion shots, their skill at taking portraits, the colour of their images; in short, we loved all their work. Style was very important in this project, along with a sense of timelessness for the characters; the changes in their clothing were very subtle, with El Picaro wearing a granddad shirt, El Recio a shirt with collar and El Viejo a black vest… these details are superb, and make the images seem fantastical.

'El Viejo'
‘El Viejo’: Design by Moruba, photo by Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda

What was the response of the winemaker, and what has been the response generally?

Javier Euba: The winery directors were present throughout the entire process and were supportive from the start. Matsu is now a highly appreciated wine and its design has become a benchmark, and I think this has shown that new concepts and new graphical forms can be created and applied to wine labelling.

Check out the work of Moruba here

Old Man bottle. Design by Moruba, photo by Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda
Old Man bottle. Design by Moruba, photo by Bèla Adler and Salvador Fresneda

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