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THOSE of you old enough to remember drinking ‘Cold Duck’ or sipping from Ben Ean Moselle ‘shorts’ will revel in the National Archives Touring Exhibition – ‘Wine! An Australian social history’.

And if you have no idea what I am talking about, then this exhibition is a must visit.

The exhibition, which is currently being shown in the gallery at Vasse Felix winery until February 1 next year is a fascinating look into the early years of the Australian wine industry.

 It displays some remarkable and innovating marketing and some of the most endearing labels I have ever come across.

One of the better advertisements show a classic 1970s scene of two couples sitting at a round table complete with plastic flower decorations. Each has a serve of quiche Lorraine and a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato and grated carrot. The caption reads: ‘At a meeting of the minds – Leo Buring quality casks’. One of the men is pouring from a three-litre cask.

That ad is followed by another retro look, advertising Ben Ean Moselle shorts.

It features a 250ml bottle, a glamorous young girl wearing a pair of form-fitted 1970s shorts. The caption reads: ‘Shorts are coming back this season’.

Equally fascinating is the way many of our early wines were marketed as tonic, or having medicinal properties.

The ‘Emu wine’ company labeled its wines as ‘Emu Guaranteed Tonic Wine’, and its series of ports – 333, 999, 444 – were labeled as ‘Health Giving Ports’. 

Another label that just wouldn’t be kosher in today’s market was Orlando’s ‘cooking sherry’.

In a letter dated March 14 1941, the Seppelt family wrote to the inspector of excise regarding a brandy label to be exported to China. ‘This brandy is made from pure grape juice, and is excellent as a beverage. It is specially recommended by doctors for its medicinal properties,’ the letter reads.

The exhibition is worth having a look at, if for nothing else to see the way products were marketed and labeled. It provides a fascinating look into the early days of the wine industry.

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