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Staying True: Wine Brands Preserve Heritage Without Their Legacy Becoming Stale


The values that heritage wine brands have held from the beginning are embedded
into the way they do things — but they can evolve.

By Fabio Molinaro


The wine sector is full of historical vineyards and generational family businesses. But how can these heritage wine brands ensure that they endure into the future and stand out in an ever-growing market filled with contemporary competition?

In 2023, the global wine market was valued at $333 billion; it’s expected to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of 5.2% between now and 2027. With new wine brands launching all the time, it is essential for those that have stood the test of time to avoid becoming stale. They need to communicate their historic legacies in a modern yet genuine way.

Embracing evolution

The values that heritage wine brands have held from the beginning — a love of their family or a love of the land that they work — are part of their DNA. These cannot change and are embedded into the way they do things; they are part of their soul, their attitude. But they can evolve.

These values can be translated into relevant contemporary stories that resonate with diverse and modern audiences. In America specifically, where consumers are surrounded by a sea of corporate giants, family businesses are valued. Drawing on family values through brand storytelling is one part of what can be done.

However, the majority of wineries are family businesses, meaning this alone will not differentiate a brand. This is why preserving heritage requires a deep dive into the values of those specific families and how they do things to find a unique element.

Italian winery Zenato, for example, highlighted that everyone working the land is part of the family and share a love for that specific area. On the other hand, Argentinian winery Catena (voted #1 World’s Best Vineyard in 2023) leveraged the story of Nicolás Catena Zapata and his descendants. 

Once a point of interest is established, brands must also consider cross-generational appeal, which is one of the biggest challenges heritage wine brands are facing. Visual appeal and interaction, such as a hand-drawn mural allowing self-portrait, is used in Catena’s campaign, making the brand more relevant to younger generations.

Avoiding disingenuous dilution

When dealing with an established brand that has crossed many eras, there is a visual patrimony that can be leveraged. While there is temptation for a brand to move into completely new territories to be perceived as modern, this can often create a disconnection between the brand and its audiences.

  Instead, evolving and refining a brand by expressing the quality of its products and introducing different treatments — such as new colors, visual cues and materials — can ensure a brand is modernized without diluting its heritage. In a campaign for Zenato, the crest and logo remained the same, yet it was able to convey elegance and beauty (as well as a love for the land) in a contemporary way, depicting a watercolor background reprising Zenato’s beautiful vineyards to appear as if they are coming out of the bottles of its awarded red and white wines.

Balancing a tone of voice that’s visually and verbally rooted in the brand’s way of talking, but with a modern twist that consumers can relate to, is essential. Consumers need to feel empathy for a brand’s story, as family history alone may not be enough.

To create a connection with the desired audience, Catena divided its brand story into chapters with titles such as “The Adventure” and “The Vision,” and then introduced different family members as characters who became relatable protagonists. 

Closing the distance between brand and consumer

Family heritage alone can be distant or even boring for modern consumers; these stories are far from people’s lives and can feel irrelevant in today’s world. Catena was the first to develop high-altitude wines, but now other competitors are doing the same. Instead, the brand needed to find a way to make people feel part of the story, thus creating empathy and setting it apart from other brands. For its part, the Catena family wanted to be present in the illustrations as siblings who have continued their father’s legacy and love for the land — a story that people of all ages can connect to.

Assuming the right tone of voice and content while writing for a winery with heritage is key to engaging the right audience. You cannot simply rely on a typical message, such as “100 years of winemaking,” which can make a brand seem archaic. Instead, communicating key messages about its origin or its  taste, in evocative terms, can help close the consumer gap and make even a more traditional brand feel tangible to a younger audience.

Relying on reputation alone is not enough, nor is rushing into uncharted territories for the sake of appearing modern. In the end, endurance and appeal hinges on a heritage wine brand’s ability to evolve their communication and leverage their differentiating traits while staying loyal to their story. 


Fabio Molinaro

Fabio Molinaro is creative director at leading, Milan-based branding firm Robilant, which services major international brands and acts as an ambassador of Italian style on a global scale. He has more than two decades of experience in this field, working with high-profile clients, such as Campari, Zenato, Catena, Barilla, Ferrari wines and Lavazza.