15/04/2010 - 00:00

What’s in a name, or label for that matter?

15/04/2010 - 00:00

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DID you read the weekend paper a fortnight ago? Page three featured an article quoting Peter Forrestal, who had some derisive things to say about wine labels. He described how the trend away from traditional, conservative labels towards those that were

What’s in a name, or label for that matter?

DID you read the weekend paper a fortnight ago?

Page three featured an article quoting Peter Forrestal, who had some derisive things to say about wine labels. He described how the trend away from traditional, conservative labels towards those that were more quirky, colourful and less steeped in history was bad for the industry and that these wines shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Now, Peter is among the preeminent wine scribes in the country; he is a wine judge, he contributes regularly to a number of foodie-winey publications, he is well deserved of his best wine critic in WA status, and he really is a nice bloke.

All of which makes it difficult for me to disagree with him to any great degree.

The business of growing, producing, marketing and selling wine is difficult. There is a famous quote along the lines of: ‘how do you make a small fortune in the wine industry? Start with a large one’.

The traditional method of an individual buying a plot of land, using the grapes they plant there to make wine, which they then sell under a label that involves the words ‘estate’ and the producer’s last name is just one avenue of getting the product to market.

There is an old-world charm to these types of labels and a safety in buying these wines that has proved successful over the decades for WA, and it will continue to do so.

But there’s more than one way to skin a grape.

In wine stores we are often confronted with brands like ‘The Luchador’, which looks more like a poster advertising a wrestling match than a wine label. There’s the range of ‘Wines by Brad’, with a Modesty Blaise-style cartoon for a label. The argument is that all of the money and energy that goes into creating these labels would be better spent on the winemaking, and that this alternative style of packaging is somehow attempting to beguile us and trick us in to buying an inferior product like some cheap parlour trick. ‘Not so’, I say. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The correlation between the frequency of these labels and a youthful face behind their production is considerable. These labels are refreshing, thumbing their collective noses at the old way of doing things, both on the label front and in the winery.

Take local boy Nick Stacey for example; he has taken a punt and put it all on the line to produce a really exciting and interesting range of wines under his label ‘Vinaceous’. The wines are excellent. They are a great example of a style that is at the cutting edge of the Australian wine scene.

They purposefully move away from the overripe, rich, high alcohol wines laden with oak that have been the norm in the Aussie wine scene for too long. They are leaner, more savoury food-style wines and deserve their place on half the good wine lists around Perth. With such a stark shift in style, Nick wanted to make it clear to the buying public that here is something different, and so labels like Red Right Hand and Snakecharmer were born.

So if you find a label that is unique and outside of your expectations, there’s a good chance that the stuff inside the bottle is just as interesting and worth a taste.

 

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