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Wine

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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Discover our Top 12 Reds of 2017
2017 was a super-busy year for our Panel who tasted and rated over 4,000 wines. With so many wines in the running, the Best Wines of the Year is always a hotly contested list and this year was no exception. From tried and true varietal champions like Hunter Valley and Great Southern Shiraz, to fabulous blends such as Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre from the Barossa, plus magical Margaret River Malbec, here are the Top 12 Reds that really stood out from the crowd and wowed all of our Panellists. View our Top 12 white wines here.
Howard Park Flint Rock Shiraz 2015 , Great Southern In the glass: Deep purple.  On the nose: Black plum, blackberry, pepper and vanillin oak.  On the palate: Black, blue and purple fruits, subtle peppery depth and great balance of tannins and acidity. Rich, flavoursome and intense yet elegant. RRP $26 or $22.10 per bottle in any dozen.   Kaesler Stonehorse Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2014 , Barossa Valley In the glass: Medium density red.  On the nose: Complex lift of dark berry, plum, cedar and earth.  On the palate: Medium to full bodied with a core of black fruit and layers of cassis and vanilla. Silken with balanced tannins giving a rich, velvety texture.  RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen.  Lou Miranda Leone Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 , Barossa Valley In the glass: Full red garnet.  On the nose: Bright plum, currant, cassis, mint and cedar.  On the palate: Full bodied with a core of black and blue fruit, firm yet ripe tannins and vibrant acidity. Savoury with hints of liquorice, spice and dried herb.  RRP $22.95 or $19.51 per bottle in any dozen.  Erin Eyes Gallic Connection Cabernet Malbec 2015 , Clare Valley In the glass: Deep red.       On the nose: Blackberry, mulberry, bay leaf and vanillin oak.  On the palate: Powerful yet poised with saturated black fruits, well-judged supporting oak, fine and persistent tannin drive and balancing acidity.  RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen.  Leconfield Merlot 2016 , Coonawarra In the glass: Bright red black.  On the nose: Powerful aromas of black cherry concentrate with flashes of spearmint and eucalypt.   On the palate: Generous kirsch, mulberry and cassis with dense inky power, a velvety core and deluxe  oak harmony.   RRP $26 or $22.10 per bottle in any dozen.  Helen & Joey Inara Pinot Noir 2016 , Yarra Valley In the glass: Pale to mid ruby.  On the nose: Pure, fresh red berry, floral perfume.  On the palate: Vibrant and silken with delicious strawberry and blueberry depth, tea-like notes, fine tannins and a complete finish. Packs so much flavour into a lighter-bodied wine. Gorgeous.  RRP $23 or $19.55 per bottle in any dozen. 
Tyrrell's Wines Special Release Shiraz 2014 , Hunter Valley In the glass: Brilliant deep purple. On the nose: Violet, plum, blackberry and black pepper.  On the palate: Shows power and finesse. Loaded with spicy black fruit depth with on-point acidity and savoury tannins driving the long finish.  RRP $40 or $34 per bottle in any dozen. Dandelion Vineyards Red Queen of the Eden Valley Shiraz 2013 , Eden Valley In the glass: Deep purple.  On the nose: Plum, blackberry, graphite, pepper and clove.  On the palate: Layered and complex, it opens with savoury black fruits, an alluring spice complexity and fine yet deep tannins. RRP $100 or $85.00 per bottle in any dozen David Hook Reserve Barbera 2016 , Hunter Valley In the glass: Medium density red.  On the nose: Plum, bramble, black olive and tobacco aromas. On the palate: Medium weight with typical varietal freshness showing vibrant plummy fruit, savoury tannins and a touch of cigar box on the finish. A lovely young Barbera with plenty potential.  RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen.  Kimbolton Fig Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 , Langhorne Creek In the glass: Full dark red.  On the nsoe: Classic Cabernet red berry, currant, cassis and cedar lift.  On the palate: Beautifully textured and deep yet only medium weight with a varietal core of black fruit, cassis and crushed leaf.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen.  Hay Shed Hill Malbec 2015 , Margaret River In the glass: Intense red black scarlet. On the nose: Hugely concentrated black cherry with interwoven complex notes of black pepper, currant and spicy oak.  On the palate: A gentle giant with super-ripe, glossy black cherry fruit power, beautiful velvety texture and deluxe spicy oak support. Classy!  RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen.  Riorret Lusatia Park Pinot Noir 2016 , Yarra Valley In the glass: Vibrant mid-red.  On the nose: Sweet cherry and raspberry fruit with notes of stalk and spice.  On the palate: Vibrant and fresh, supple and juicy with ripe cherry and plum, subtle stalky complexity, warm earthy notes and integrated vanillin oak.  RRP $50 or $42.50 per bottle in any dozen.
Wine
Howard Park Dream Vertical
Words by Paul Diamond on 30 Sep 2015
Western Australian wine is a true phenomenon.It contributes less than 5% of Australia’s total production, but in a good year, can create some of the country’s best Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. And in such a short space of time, just over 40 years, the west has come a long way.  Margaret River has an identity of “bush, blue sky and surf” combined with “pioneering spirit meets entrepreneurial drive” to create something that is completely unique, stylish and undoubtedly Australian. One of the stories that completely embodies this special identity is the Burch family that owns and operates Howard Park Wines . Like many of the great Margaret River estates, Howard Park did not start as a Burch family concern, but as a side project. In 1986, John Wade, while working as a winemaker at Plantagenet Wines, made a Riesling and Cabernet at Denmark Agricultural College and labelled them in honour of his father Howard. During this time, John attended a single bottle club lunch in Perth as a guest and sat next to Jeff Burch. Over this lunch a kinship was formed and not long after that Jeff and his wife Amy became partners in Howard Park. Two years later, Jeff Burch purchased a picturesque 138 acres of pasture in Margaret River that has the Wilyabrup creek running through it. Named Leston after Jeff’s father, it was situated in the heart of prime vine growing territory. The partnership between John and Jeff grew and in the early 90s they added Chardonnay to the Howard Park stable and started to release wines under the MadFish label. Early on, MadFish gained attention due to the striking depiction of the Aboriginal water turtle that symbolises perseverance and tolerance. Produced from cool climate fruit as approachable, contemporary and solid value wines, MadFish is now 20 years old and one of Australia’s most recognisable wine brands. A family business Over the next decade, the MadFish-Howard Park growth story accelerated. They purchased a property in Denmark upon which the first winery and cellar door were built. Jeff’s brother David and sister Lesley came on board and foundations for a new winery and cellar door at Leston vineyard were poured as the flagship single vineyard range of Scottsdale Cabernet and Leston Shiraz was released. By this stage, John had left and Howard Park-MadFish became a Burch family operation. In the early 2000s, they acquired a 200 hectare, cool climate property in Mt Barrow (Great Southern). As the wine stable grew and the quality increased, the accolades started to roll in. Jeff and Amy’s daughter Natalie joined the business, and the Burch family combined forces with Burgundian winemaker and biodynamic ambassador Pascal Marchand on a project to produce wines from both WA and Burgundy under one label. The Marchand & Burch range includes French bubbles (Cremant), Pinot and Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz, Chardonnay and Pinot. Today, family is still at the fore with Jeff CEO, Amy GM and marketing director, David managing the vineyards, daughter Natalie managing operations and sons Richard and David managing east coast sales and marketing. Tasting history Wine is the Burch family’s religion and it binds them in a way that is both humbling and inspiring. To get closer to their story, along with Wine Selectors Panellist Dave Mavor, I headed to Margaret River for a tasting with the family. In their newly opened Wine Chapel, we absorbed the family narrative through the varieties they hold dear: Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet. Howard Park Riesling 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014 Howard Park Chardonnay 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2014 Marchand & Burch Parongurup Chardonnay 2011, 2013, 2012, 2013, 2014 Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir 2012, 2013, 2014 Howard Park Leston Shiraz 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2012 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 First up was Howard Park Riesling from the cool climate of Great Southern, a wine that since 1986 has defined the identity of Howard Park and is one of Australia’s most collected. Stylistically, Great Southern Rieslings are quite different from those of Clare or Eden Valley in that they start out as tight and slender with positive minerality, and with age, blossom into generous and elegant wines that have wonderful complexity. The older examples of 2001 and 2004 proved that these Rieslings age wonderfully with both wines showing delicate, youthful flavours balanced by toasty development. Everyone had favourites for a range of reasons: winemaker Janice McDonald loved the 2012 for its concentration and effortless neutrality and Natalie favoured the 2014 for its refreshing zest and weight. The highly awarded Chardonnay was next, stretching back to 2003. These wines are constructed with a mixture of fruit from Mount Barker, Porongurup and Margaret River and represent the leaner, cooler side of the Chardonnay spectrum. Very pretty and elegant, they have fresh acidity and bright, clean flavours that help them age slowly and gracefully. Minerality and texture are noticeable with the standouts holding beautiful fruit flavours of melons, grapefruits and nuts with a creamy, savoury complexity. Dave enjoyed the 2007 with its fresh citrus core and Jeff loved the 2013 for its balance and length. French connection Next came the Marchand & Burch Porongurup Chardonnays. The standard was high with a lean and tight style that delivers citrus and melon flavours with complexity, minerality and finesse. Standouts were the 2013 for its crème brulée aromas and tropical fruit palate and Jeff loved the 2007 for its French leanings and flinty complexity. Pinot Noir followed with the Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow line-up. These wines showed a distinct development of style that highlighted how critical vine age is to creating wines that have weight and complexity. The 2012 was lovely, with pretty sour cherry fruit, savoury spices and soft tannins and the depth and structure built as we moved through to the 2014. Considering how demanding Pinot Noir can be, especially from young vines, the potential of the Marchand & Burch Mt Barrow Pinot is massive. Amy and Natalie were both wowed by the 2014 due to its luscious layers and fine complexity. 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Named after Jeff’s great-grandfather Walter Abercrombie, the wines are earthy, savoury and full of black fruits, but have incredible finesse and harmony. Jeff was impressed with how well the 2000 had aged, Natalie loved the 2012 “just because.” The tasting was a special line-up of wines that highlighted that Howard Park, just like WA wine, has come a long way in a short space of time. The exercise was made extra special by the generosity of the Burch family in sharing their wines, their stories and proving that wine is made better with family. www.howardparkwines.com.au
Wine
Discover our Top 12 Whites of 2017
In 2017, our Panel tasted and rated over 4,000 wines. The Best Wines of the Year is always a hotly contested list and this year was no exception. From tried and true favourites like Howard Park Margaret River Chardonnay, to fabulous alternative varietals such as Fiano from Chalk Hill’s McLaren Vale vineyard, plus Trophy-winning Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier, here (in no particular order) are the Top 12 Whites that really stood out from the crowd and wowed all of our Panellists. View our Top 12 red wines here.
In Dreams Chardonnay 2015, Yarra Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Apple, grapefruit, oatmeal and almond aromas.  On the palate: Fine and elegant and yet it has power and drive with a delicious core of white and yellow fruits. A savoury, almost salty layer adds complexity, velvety texture and racy acidity.  RRP $23 or $19.55 per bottle in any dozen.  Chalk Hill Fiano 2016, McLaren Vale In the glass: Bright straw.  On the nose: Opulent white fruit with honeydew, Tahitian lime and guava.  On the palate: Remarkably bright and focussed core of juicy white fruits with satiny, delicate texture and length from start to finish and crunchy, almost salty acidity running to a thrilling finish.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2015, Nagambie Lakes In the glass: Pale lemon green. On the nose: Stonefruit, florals, ginger.  On the palate: A light to medium weight and fine wine with loads of stonefruit and citrus zest underpinned by zesty acidity, mouth-coating texture and good length.  RRP $27.95 or $23.76 per bottle in any dozen.  Long Rail Gully Riesling 2016, Canberra District   In the glass: Bright pale yellow straw.  On the nose: Lime zest and fresh herb. On the palate: Delicate yet intense and flavoursome with strong citrussy varietals and notes of talc and mineral. Mouth-feel is supple and lightly creamy with vibrant acidity. A really classic Riesling with delicious purity. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen.  Cape Barren Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Adelaide Hills   In the glass: Vibrant pale lemon.   On the nose: Lime juice, nettle, grapefruit, vanilla.  On the palate: Stylish and intense lime, passionfruit and cut grass varietals, tempered by a light nutty layer with minerally acid dryness on the finish.  RRP $19 or $16.15 per bottle in any dozen.  De Iuliis Special Release Grenache Rosé 2017, Hilltops In the glass: Very fine pink with green and copper flashes.  On the nose: Hints of pink flower and Turkish Delight.  On the palate: Elegant and savoury with juicy fruit and green olive-like astringency creating a dry finish.  RRP $28 or $23.80 per bottle in any dozen.
Howard Park Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River/Great Southern In the glass: Beautifully vibrant lemon with a green hue.  On the nose: Delicate lime juice, light stonefruit, grapefruit and cedary oak.  On the palate: Refined yet intense with juicy layers of stonefruit and citrus with creamy yet poised acidity. RRP $54 or $45.90 per bottle in any dozen. Tinklers Mount Bright Semillon 2017, Hunter Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Bright citrus, white melon, mineral and lanolin perfume.  On the palate: Driven by beautiful tingling acidity, it’s deliciously layered with an amazingly vibrant fruit core and quinine-like texture. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen. Heggies Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2015, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon, green hue.  On the nose: Fresh yellow fruit lift with spice and grilled nut complexity.  On the palate: Slightly spicy and strongly varietal with nectarine, green melon and marzipan, subtle background vanillin oak, fresh leesy depth and ginger spice.   RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen Gatt High Eden Riesling 2011, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon straw. On the nose: Still vibrant lemon and lime lift with very faint hints of kero development. On the palate: Still so youthful, pristine and precise with a multi-layered, savoury and vibrant core of fruit and just the start of secondary development.  RRP $40 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen. Umamu Sparkling Chardonnay 2005, Margaret River In the glass: Youthful lemon straw.  On the nose: Buttered toast, preserved lemon and background smokey notes.    On the palate: Full-bodied, layered and rich yet still vibrant with a strong undercurrent of leesy depth under a butterscotch-like core of fruit.   RRP $63 or $53.55 per bottle in any dozen. Bunnamagoo Estate Kids Earth Fund Autumn Semillon 2013 (375ml), Mudgee In the glass: Medium to full gold. On the nose: Lifted toffee, butterscotch and crème brulee.  On the palate: Luscious and viscous, with sweet layers of candied fruit complemented by bright lemony acidity.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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