Cover Story

Artis­tic wine la­bels are no longer just the do­main of ‘easy drink­ing’ drops.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - DRINK -

Acol­lec­tion of wine geeks, cork dorks and vi­nous nerds gath­ered in the Barossa Val­ley in June 2008 for the third In­ter­na­tional Shi­raz Al­liance. Among top­ics such as viti­cul­ture and in­ter­na­tional bench­mark­ing, a young del­e­gate did a pre­sen­ta­tion on the semi­otics of wine la­bels — the idea be­ing to sug­gest you can judge a book by its cover when it comes to wines. At this time most Aus­tralian wine la­bels were pretty staid — plain in colour, se­ri­ous in font, per­haps some em­boss­ing if the wine was a lit­tle more se­ri­ous. A con­trary ex­am­ple de­signed by a street artist, de­pict­ing a Mex­i­can luchador (wrestler), drew po­lar­is­ing opin­ion. The point be­ing made was the se­ri­ous-look­ing la­bel con­tained a more se­ri­ous-feel­ing wine, while the op­po­site went for the fun la­bel, with an easy drink­ing style be­hind the jovial liv­ery. A decade on, wine la­bels are now bolder and more dar­ing, as an ar­ray of artists and avant-garde de­sign­ers are com­mis­sioned to en­hance vi­nous pack­ag­ing, mark­ing an era of change in Aus­tralia’s wine in­dus­try. Reg Mom­bassa was an early con­vert to the medium of wine ‘brand­ing’, after in­trepid wine­maker Wil­liam Downie asked the Mambo icon to adorn his bot­tles with land­scapes in 2003. Young-gun Tas­ma­nian wine­maker Peter Dredge had the la­bels for his brand, Dr Edge, il­lus­trated by elec­tronic act Mas­sive At­tack’s Robert Del Naja (aka ‘3D’).

At the other end of the spec­trum lies a new cur­rency in hand-drawn, homely la­bels. Nat­u­ral wine­mak­ers James Ersk­ine and An­ton van Klop­per, both based in the Ade­laide Hills of South Aus­tralia, have asked their chil­dren to draw and imag­ine their pack­ag­ing and, in the process, cre­ated a tem­po­ral gallery of their off­spring’s hand­i­work and a bevy of iconic la­bels. Van Klop­per now free­hand il­lus­trates his own la­bels, por­tray­ing peo­ple who have os­cil­lated through his world.

The free­wheel­ing im­agery in both sets of la­bels finds a neat syn­ergy with their ex­pres­sive, un­adorned and pure-feel­ing wines: a lit­tle bit wild, artis­tic, maybe even a lit­tle play­ful.

Per­haps one of the most in­no­va­tive la­bels be­longs to col­lab­o­ra­tive wine pro­ject Be­tween Five Bells, out of Gee­long, Vic­to­ria. The de­signs de­tail vin­tage con­di­tions, fer­men­ta­tion, grape va­ri­eties, al­co­hol lev­els and other wine de­tails — con­tained in in­fo­graph­ics de­signed by world-lead­ing de­signer Ni­cholas Fel­ton. In­for­ma­tive and stun­ning in equal mea­sure.

Wine la­bels are now bolder, as an ar­ray of artists are com­mis­sioned to en­hance vi­nous pack­ag­ing.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT Dr Edge Dr Ongo Pinot Noir; Jauma Why Try So Hard? Chenin/Semil­lon; Be­tween Five Bells Pinot Noir; Jauma Tikka Shi­raz Grenache.

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