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What's in a label?

I recently had the privilege of watching the legendary Liverpool FC towel up Sydney FC in a soccer friendly in a private suite at ANZ Stadium courtesy of Claymore Wines. The Clare Valley winery is owned by Adelaide doctor Anura Nitchingham, who became a lifelong Liverpool fan while attending university in the northern England city back in the 80s. Since founding his own winery, he’s been able take his fandom to the next level with the Claymore Wines Liverpool FC range, hence the invite to the match.

During the half-time break, with the Reds comfortably leading 3-0, I observed a young couple at the bar looking through the range of Claymore Wines on offer.

“Can I try the Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc…I just love Prince,” the young lass asked of the barmaid.

“I’ll have the London Calling,” said he, seemingly unaware of the varietal. It’s a Cabernet Malbec blend, by the way, and a good one, having recently won Platinum  at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Besides football, Anura’s other great love is music. So instead of having wines like a ‘single vineyard Shiraz’, Claymore’s labels bear the name of some of Anura’s favourite songs and albums, such as the Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz, Joshua Tree Riesling and Voodoo Child Chardonnay.

“I just wanted to have some fun,” Anura tells me when I ask him the reasoning behind the labels. “After all, wine is meant to be fun, right?”

Marketing Wine to Millennials

While it does seem fun, Claymore’s labels seem to fly in the face of traditional wine marketing, where the producer’s logo is consistent across all their wines and information such as varietal, origin and vintage is first and foremost.

“It was a struggle early on because the inconsistent branding was deemed anti-marketing,” admits Claymore’s general manager, Carissa Major.

“But once we explained the story, we had a more personal conversation with the customer. Now, people come to our cellar door, pick up a Bittersweet Symphony (Cab Sav) and say, ‘this is from my generation, I get it’. The labels were never meant to be a gimmick, they are the sound track to Anura’s life. But marketing-wise today, they present exciting opportunities rather than barriers.”

Recent studies from California State University help explain the marketing swing. Researchers looked at the fastest growing buyer market in wine – millennials – people born after 1980, so termed because they hit maturity at the turn of the millennium. This generation is cashed up, brand savvy and, most importantly, they are on the verge of overtaking baby boomers as the biggest buyers of wine.

The university study found that millennials prefer wine labels that are brightly coloured, less traditional, more graphically focused and feature creative brand names. If you’re a wine producer listening to a baby boomer marketer, maybe it’s time to think outside the box. The story of Fowles Wine’s Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch is a great example.

The label shows an art deco-style image of a lady in her finery out for a hunt.

“My wife designs the labels and we actually took advice from a leading marketer about whether this was a good idea. Their response? No!,” explains Fowles Wines owner, Matt Fowles.

“We ultimately disagreed and released the wines, but it was useful advice in the sense that it was liberating. We thought, if there is no place in the market for this, then we should just do the designs we really love, so we did. It was all a bit of fun and, surprise, surprise, they sell well.”

Art for art’s sake

Riverland producer Delinquente Wine Co. has taken label art in an even more contemporary direction channelling a punk ethos on their wines such as The Bullet Dodger Montepulciano and the Screaming Betty Vermentino.

“The starting point with the artwork for Delinquente was to do something very different to traditional wine labels, but also to represent things we have a passion for, like street art and alternative culture,’ says winemaker/owner Con-Greg Grigoriou.

“The art represents our ideas and allows us to connect with people in an interesting way. We all know a ‘Screaming Betty’, or would at least like to party with her. So they have taken on a life of their own.”

Not everyone is a fan. Seventy-nine-year-old wine critic James Halliday described Delinquente Wines as setting “the new low water-mark” for labels in Australia. But he likes their wines. And that’s the thing, the wine has to be good to get the buyer to keep coming back.

These days, wine is fashion and bottle shop aisles are the catwalks. Marketing a label is just as important as the wine inside the bottle. Get both right and you could just make it. Traditionalists will most likely continue to stock their cellars with family crested bottles. The millennials crave new and exciting. As for me, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

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The 10 Biggest Wine Myths
‘All wine gets better with age’, ‘The more expensive the wine, the better it tastes’, ‘The French invented Champagne’ – can you tell myth from fact? Discover the truth on the 10 biggest wine myths   Myth 1: All wine gets better with age
Fact: A lot of wine in Australia is made to drink within 12-18 months. There’s a real trend at the moment, especially with reds, for winemakers to craft young, fresh wines to drink immediately rather than to age. You can still find wines that are made to age for decades, with Hunter Valley Semillon and Australian Shiraz being great examples.     Myth 2: Bottles of wine sealed with a cork are better than those with a screw-cap
​ Fact: In a perfect world, the perfect cork is the perfect closure, but in reality, perfect corks are extremely rare. Screw-caps eliminate many of the problems that can come with corks such as cork taint, oxidation and leakage and give the wine-lover confidence they’re getting quality and consistency. Find out more about corks vs screw caps here .   Myth 3: The more expensive the wine, the better it tastes
​ Fact: One of the joys of wine is that it comes down to personal taste. How much a wine sells for can indicate the quality of grapes and how expensive the winemaking process was. However, a lot of wine pricing is driven by economics and supply and demand, but this will never guarantee that a $500 bottle will taste five times better than a $100 one.   Myth 4: Blended wines are inferior
​ Fact: This myth has been driven by Australia’s insatiable thirst for single variety wines. However, one of the ironies of this is that some of Australia’s greatest wines ever made were blends. In fact, one of the most famous blended wines in the world is Champagne . Blended wines are a classic case of the end product being greater than the sum of its parts.    Myth 5: The French invented Champagne
​ Fact: It is argued that English scientist and physician Christopher Merret invented Champagne in the 17 th century when he added sugar to a finished wine to create a secondary fermentation.   Myth 6: Red wine with meat, white wine with fish
​ Fact: This is not a myth in that generally, the high tannins in red wine are a delicious complement for the fat in red meat, and the acidity in white wine gives brightness to a match of chicken or fish. However, it’s not a hard and fast rule. For example, you can pair red wine with fish; the secret is matching weight with weight. If salmon is poached, it will be silky, therefore a Rosé or Pinot Noir can work, while roasted salmon/ barra might pair well with a bolder red. Sauce is another factor, a creamy sauce screams for white wine, but a spicy red sauce or mustard sauce could work well with Sangiovese or even cool climate Shiraz !   Myth 7: A heavier bottle equals higher quality
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​ Fact: The ideal temperature to serve red wine is 14-18ºC. Serving it too cold will dull the aromas and ultimately the flavours in full-bodied red wine. Room temperature in Australia during the peak of summer may be anywhere from 25–35ºC, so don’t be afraid to pop your favourite red wine in the fridge for half an hour before your barbeque, unless, of course, it’s come from a temperature controlled environment. Learn more about how to store wine at home here .   Myth 9: An expensive decanter is the only way to decant wine
​ Fact: You can decant wine in any clean vessel such as a vase, a saucepan or a teapot. The process is simply to bring the wine into contact with oxygen to really bring out the aromas and flavours and help it to breathe. A stylish decanter obviously looks beautiful, though, and adds to the theatre of wine enjoyment. Learn more about how and when to use a wine decanter here.   Myth 10: If a wine smells and tastes like a particular fruit, it has been made with the addition of that fruit
​ Fact: The only fruit wine is made from is grapes. The other aromas and flavours you might detect are the result of aroma and flavour molecules that a grape shares in common with a particular fruit. For example, Cabernet grapes contain the same flavour molecules as blackcurrants, and Sauvignon Blanc has the same molecules as those found in green vegetables.
Vine Change for the Good Life
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 27 Nov 2017
Ever dreamed of making a vine change? Meet some daring individuals who took a leap of faith to embrace the good life – vinous style. We’ve all been there. Visited a winery, wandered through the vines, dreaming of days spent pruning tips and tasting wines straight from the barrel. Of course, this romantic picture glosses over the constant stress of too much or not enough rain, grape-eating pests and the changing tastes of fickle consumers. But for a special selection of wine producers, the challenges were never too great. Their dream of a life on the land was enough motivation to pack in their career and take up the secateurs for a life dictated by vines, veraison and vats. For Todd and Jeff of Belford Block Eight in the Hunter Valley , it was love at first sight of their property’s driveway. As Jeff explains, “Todd and I turned off the car, listened to nature, admired the olives, turned to one another and said, ‘this is it.’” Jeff gave up his job in the finance department for CanTeen and Todd left Ebay, where he’d worked for 12 years in strategy, marketing and analysis. Neither knew anything about winemaking. But on their property were around 12,000 vines, so, as Todd describes, “Jeff and I tracked down a bottle of 2006 Brokenwood Block Eight Semillon, a single vineyard release made only using our grapes and it was truly remarkable. So, we thought, maybe there’s an opportunity to make some nice wine from these grapes, let’s give it a go!” And given it a go they certainly have with their first ever wine, the 2014 Reserve Semillon now an award-winner. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, though, and they’ve learnt some valuable lessons. Apart from the vagaries of harvest, the necessity of tractor headlights and that their deckchairs are just for show, they also know that un-neutered piglets turn into boisterous 150kg boars and goats can be as loyal as dogs. But regrets? “No bloody way, mate!” is Jeff’s answer, “One day we’ll sit on those deck chairs, sipping on a 20-year-old Block Eight, admiring what we’ve built.” Healthy vines
Back in 1997, while Jeff and Todd were still slogging away in the corporate world, over in South Australia’s Clare Valley, medical professional, Anura Nitchingham planted his first vineyard. He’d chosen Clare because, he says, “The region is really an unsung hero in the world of viticulture. It’s unique and has some really great producers in a very small, but beautiful region.” That first planting has grown into Claymore Wines , one of Australia’s most unique wine brands. While Anura hasn’t left his medical career, he says that winemaking provides something medicine can’t: “Vines don’t complain! And there’s wine!” The medical theme is also part of the story of Hobbs of Barossa Ranges . Allison Hobbs was a nurse and her husband was a former policeman turned firefighter when they bought their vineyard in the Barossa. Their decision to make a vine change was borne of a desire to provide a rural lifestyle for their children. Like Jeff and Todd, Allison and Greg knew very little about making wine, but the stars aligned, providing them with some strokes of good fortune in the early years. Foremost was they happened to buy the property next door to local winemaking expert, Chris Ringland, who provided invaluable advice and made their wines. While being a nurse, police officer or fire fighter might be worlds away from making wine, Allison and Greg feel they brought vital skills from those professions to their new endeavour. As Greg says, “attention to detail is very important to both nursing and winemaking”, and Allison adds, “the observation techniques you learn in nursing, the police and fire brigade are important as we wander through the vineyard and take note of what’s right and what’s not.” Livin’ in the 70s
Although Allison, Greg and Anura faced challenges in the mid-1990s, things were even more basic in the 1970s. Having left successful careers in the emerging computer industry, Linda and Ian Tyrer bought a property in WA’s Mount Barker region to establish Galafrey Wines . Again, they had no experience, but, as Linda describes, she arrived at their new home four months pregnant, armed with a few thousand grape cuttings – “naive but starry-eyed, full of enthusiasm.” A lack of money meant a lot of back-breaking work, but by 1985, they had won their first Trophy and Ian’s tireless dedication saw him awarded the George Mulgure Award for outstanding service to the industry in 2003. Unfortunately, the same year, Ian lost his battle with cancer. However, his legacy lives on with Linda still at the helm, along with daughter Kim, who left her own career as an artist to return to the vines. One thing all these people would agree on is that a life among the vines is a hard slog. But is it the good life? Absolutely!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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