Technophiles have embraced organic light-emitting diode (OLED) in televisions. Now, Pacific Northwest enophiles can see OLED technology on the labels of wine bottles as Reustle – Prayer Rock Vineyards in Roseburg, Ore., is helping to lead the way, starting with its acclaimed 2019 Deux Barrique Tempranillo.
“It helps promote the specialty bottling of Tempranillo and allows us to grab the person’s attention and tell the story behind the wine,” says owner/winemaker Stephen Reustle.
OLED is a remarkably efficient technology, made with organic thin films between two conductors. When an electric current is applied, a bright light appears. A light fingertip touch to a specific spot on the label illuminates a particular portion of the innovative label. This extremely thin label (less than 0.5 millimeters total thickness) is completely flexible, foldable, rollable, programmable, cool to the touch, waterproof, shockproof and durable. No app or plug source is needed for the bottle to light up.
Trailblazing and innovation seem inherent in Reustle, a CPA who achieved success on the East Coast with a marketing company prior to chasing a dream to become a West Coast winemaker. In 2003, he became the first in the U.S. to plant and commercially grow Grüner Veltliner, the white variety famously linked to Austria. His debut release, from the 2005 vintage, wowed judges and earned critical acclaim. Reustle – Prayer Rock Vineyards was named the 2017 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest Magazine.
Reustle worked with German-based Inuru, which states that its OLED products are manufactured without using rare earth metals. According to Inuru, its OLEDs make the product and the supply chain green because its LED uses an organic semiconductor rather than silicon.
Initial inventors of the patented OLED technology were longtime Eastman Kodak employees Steven Van Slyke and Ching Wan Tang, who began developing it in 1979. Although a new approach to bottle labeling, OLED technology has been around since 1997 for a range of applications, including a car stereo display by Pioneer — the first OLED application — and later for a Kodak EasyShare digital camera.
Today, OLED technology is commonly used in high-tech TVs by Sony, LG and others, computer monitors and cellular phones. For these high-tech products, OLED displays reportedly offer increased efficiency compared with liquid crystal displays while reducing power/fuel consumption and greenhouse emissions. The technology recently expanded to watches by Garmin and Nubia.
Baccardi adopts OLED for Sapphire packaging in 2016
In the beverage industry, Bacardi’s packaging for its Bombay Sapphire gin with electroluminescence was introduced in 2012, developed by Inuru and another German company, Karl Knauer KG. In 2017, the same collaboration produced OLED labels for Coca-Cola Co., which won several packaging and marketing awards for its use of the technology on limited edition soft drink bottles. In 2019, it became part of a Star Wars promotional campaign.
Reustle’s implementation is believed to be the first on a wine bottle, but the industry use of OLED display products is projected to increase by three times during the next five years.
“Since we were the first application of this technology on wine bottles, there was a learning curve for us and the vendor,” Reustle says.
An Inuru representative traveled to the winery to help apply the labels by hand. Reustle says the technology for OLED wine labels will continue to advance, including adaptations that account for temperature sensitivity.
“In this case, you would put your wine in the refrigerator, and the light would illuminate at the perfect temperature to serve the wine,” Reustle says. “In my opinion, this would move the technology from gimmicky to practical.”
That feature, Reustle predicted, and other improvements would prompt more wineries to seek out and soon embrace OLED labels.