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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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Wine
Showcasing Shiraz with Australia's First Families of Wine
Words by Paul Diamond on 14 Oct 2017
A fabulous Wine Selectors dinner with Australia’s first families of wine revealed the bright future of this incredible variety. A red wine dinner in the middle of a chilly Melbourne August seemed like a highly appropriate thing to do and what better variety than Shiraz to chase the cold away. And so a four-course menu by the team at Neale White’s Papa Goose restaurant was devised and 12 great Shiraz from Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) were sourced and the tables set. By the time the Wine Selectors faithful started arriving, it was clear that the dinner was going to be one to remember. Designed to celebrate Shiraz through the expressions of 12 wines from the 12 families that make up the AFFW , the diversity of flavours and expressions from one grape variety was quite remarkable. On paper, the line-up looked simply yummy, but as the wines were being opened and tested before the guests arrived, the reality of what we were pouring and tasting started dawning on us; we were privy to a multiplicity of smells, flavours and textures that were being represented from 10 different regions and 1300+ collective years of winemaking experience. A Family Affair
On hand to help host, pour and manage 1000-odd glasses of Shiraz were Katherine Brown, Brown Brothers winemaker and Chairperson of the AFFW Next Generation, Justine Henschke, PR for Henschke Wines , Justin Taylor, export manager for Taylors Wines, Sally Webber, DeBortoli family ambassador and Jeff McWilliam, CEO of McWilliam’s Wines . The food was awesome and the wine a perfect foil for the cold and wet. And as the family anecdotes from each of the AFFW members were told, the conversation eventually found itself reflecting on the future of Australian Shiraz. “Shiraz is the past and it’s also the future,” Justine Henschke noted emphatically. “It’s the past in that it has established a lot of wine communities and it’s the future in that we now know how Shiraz thrives according to climate.” “So now it’s all about educating people on what style comes from where, so they know where to go for something specific.

Look at tonight, we have tried 12 different wines of the same variety across many different regions, showing small nuances from where they have been sourced and that’s pretty incredible.

- Justine Henschke, Henschke Wines
Sally Webber agreed that diversity is a key and that blends are going to play a big part in strengthening its appeal for future generations. “I love that it’s such a diverse variety and can blend beautifully with so many other varieties.” “The future for Shiraz is in blends,” she added. “It’s such an intense variety, you have pepper and spice and there are some varieties you only need a little of and it brings out all these other great characters. “Rhône varieties like Grenache and Mourvedre, and even varieties like Gamay and Tempranillo really add different expressions to Shiraz and as the Australian consumer becomes less conservative and more experimental, we’ll get to see the variety’s real potential.” A hint of spice
For Katherine Brown and Brown Brothers, fine, spicy cool climate Shiraz is the future and Heathcote is their chosen region. As Katherine described, “We think customers understand that Shiraz doesn’t need to come from a warm climate and we are on the search to make a Shiraz that you can call refreshing.” “Something you can drink at lunch, something that is more about pepper and spice than big jammy fruits. That’s where I see the future of Shiraz, we are starting to see these cooler climates like Heathcote, Eden Valley and Margaret River delivering these flavours.” So what about hot areas, those that built the wines that put us on the map like Barossa , McLaren Vale and the Clare ? Justin Taylor thinks that Shiraz is a variety that can deal with the heat and with careful winemaking, the future for warmer styles is still bright.

“Australia’s getting hotter whether you like it or not, and Shiraz loves heat, so we can keep making more Shiraz for the global market, we can do it with rationality, and we can do it with diversity. Our quality has never been as good as it is right now, it’s a great story for this country.”

- Jeff McWilliam, McWilliams Wines
Jeff McWilliam agrees and is happy that the diversity we are seeing has extended to a place where the expressions of Shiraz that emulate the O’Shea Hunter River Burgundies that the Hunter Valley does so well are gaining popularity again. “We are going back to medium bodied wines, just like the great old wines that came from Mt Pleasant,” said Jeff. “I love McLaren Vale and Barossa Shiraz , but I know the wines we do best are in that style of the old O’Shea wines. “We are talking about vineyards and the special wines they produce, but the Hunter is like that, you can have a great vintage and you can have a really poor vintage and that’s the excitement of it, just like the diversity of Australian Shiraz.”
Wine
Biodynamic – going beyond organic
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 5 Apr 2016
If someone told you that filling a cow’s horn with dung and planting it at a certain phase of the moon would help your vines to grow, you’d probably think they were bonkers. Far out it may indeed sound, but this is one of the central steps in biodynamics, a form of organic viticulture that’s being embraced by an increasing number of Australian wineries. While it might sound like a theory cooked up by modern hippies, biodynamics actually has its origins in Europe over 90 years ago. Let’s set the scene. It’s 1924 in Silesia, Germany (now part of Poland) and a group of farmers has gathered to hear a series of lectures by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The farmers are looking for an alternative to chemical fertilisers, which they believe have caused extensive damage to their soil and brought poor health to their livestock and crops. Steiner proves sympathetic as he reveals a system of agriculture that shuns chemicals and treats the farm as an individual, self-contained entity. Rather than focus on the health of individual plants, Steiner’s system teaches that good health requires that the entire eco-system in which the plant exists be thriving. This includes the other plants, the soil, the animals and even the humans who are working the land. The system he describes he calls biodynamics. By taking away all artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, Steiner presented one of the earliest models of organic farming. However, it’s the next steps that really separate biodynamics from organics (and it’s at this point that I imagine some of the listening farmers’ eyebrows began to rise). Steiner claims that for this environment to truly blossom, a series of field and compost preparations needs to be added. These preparations, nine in total, are man-made solutions, derived from nature, that are labelled 500 through to 508. To the conventional farmer, these preparations may appear somewhat far-fetched. For example, ‘500’ is made by filling cow horns with cow manure, which are then buried over winter to be recovered in spring. A teaspoon of the manure is then mixed with up to 60 litres of water, which is stirred for an hour, whirled in different directions every second minute. ‘501’ also requires a cow horn, this time filled with crushed quartz. It is buried over summer and dug up late in autumn, then mixed the same way as 500. Stretching his credibility even further in the eyes of the pragmatic farmer, Steiner brings a spirituality to his teachings by suggesting the growth cycles of the farm are influenced by astrological forces. Decisions such as when to spray the preparations, when to weed and when to pick should all be made according to a calendar that details the phases of the moon and stars. “Hocus-pocus!” you may very well cry. Not so, according to the ever-increasing number of wine producers in Australia and internationally who have embraced biodynamics. Choosing an environmentally sustainable approach to viticulture is obviously to be applauded in these times of climate crisis. However, talk to biodynamic producers and you’ll find that superior wine quality is the number one motivation for being biodynamic. At South Australia’s Cape Jaffa, the Hooper family has been using biodynamic principles for many years and their conviction in its effectiveness is complete. “We believe that cultivating the vines in this way is what allows them to achieve balance within their environment. Achieve balance, and the vines are able to fully express themselves – leading to a wine that bares a true and remarkable resemblance to its environment,” says Derek Hooper. The Buttery family of Gemtree in McLaren Vale are also converts. Since their biodynamic beginnings in 2007 they say they can now “see a noticeable difference in the health of our vineyard and quality of our fruit.” A fellow McLaren Vale winemaker, David Paxton of Paxton wines says, “Biodynamics is the most advanced form of organic farming. It uses natural preparations and composts to bring the soil and the vine into balance, resulting in exceptionally pure and expressive fruit.” The proof is in the tasting, however, so next time you’re looking for a new wine to try, why not put biodynamics to the test and see if you can taste the natural difference?
Food
Food and Wine Matching 101
Create inspiring food and wine matches Follow the helpful tips below to ensure that at your next dinner party you impress your guests with your pairing prowess. Acid + acid If your food is high in acid – think tomatoes or a squeeze of lemon – you’ll need a wine that’s high in acid too. Riesling is the most obvious white choice, while Italian style reds will balance tomatoes and cut through olive oil.  Same + same Brings together complementary flavours – light-bodied wine + light dish, full-bodied wine + heavy dish and so on. Also pair similar textures and flavours – earthy wine + earthy food, citrussy wine + fruity dish, etc.  Opposite + opposite Try a fresh, crisp Chardonnay with a creamy pasta dish, or consider a clean, dry Riesling with a spicy chilli-filled Asian dish. Or if you’re serving a dish with very simple flavours, a complex wine can enhance the experience. Heat + sweet For spicy dishes, red wines high in alcohol and tannins are a no-no as the alcohol intensifies the heat. Choose sweeter whites such as off-dry Gewürztraminers or Rieslings .   Sweet + sweeter If your dish is sweet, the wine should be sweeter. Think milk and dark chocolate desserts with Tawnies and Muscats , while white chocolate pairs with Prosecco and lemon flavours are perfect with Botrytis Riesling . Tannins + fat This pairing is all about balance. Fat serves to even out tannin intensity, resulting in a smoother, softer red.  Wine styles Try these suggestions to match with your favourite wine styles. Fuller bodied red wines Wines: Cabernet , Shiraz , Malbec , Durif Food matches: Their robust structure makes these an ideal partner to hard cheeses and fattier cuts of meat. Medium bodied red wines Wines: Merlot & Blends, Tempranillo , Barbera , Sangiovese Food matches: To match the moderate density tannins go for slow-cooked or rustic style dishes like pasta, Mediterranean fare, tapas. Lighter bodied red wines Wines: Pinot Noir , Grenache & blends, Nero d’Avola   Food matches: With the finer styles, go for gamey, earthy foods like duck, while styles with higher acidity can take richer, spicier dishes. Rosé Wines: Dry, off-dry Food matches: For drier styles, go for salads, charcuterie and antipasto. For off-dry styles, try spicy food or fruit-based dishes. Fuller-bodied white wines Wines: Chardonnay , Verdelho , Viognier Food matches: A richer texture makes these fuller varieties a great match for poultry, pork, rich seafood, cream or cheese-based pastas. Medium-bodied white wines Wines: Arneis , Pinot G , Fiano , Vermentino , Marsanne Food matches: Zesty acidity makes these styles perfect with lighter flavours like tapas, pasta and salads. Lighter-bodied and aromatic white wines Wines: Sauvignon Blanc & blends, Semillon , Riesling , Gewürztraminer Food matches: The high acidity inherent in these varieties makes them ideal for fried food, raw seafood, delicate Asian dishes, and simple Mediterranean food. Champagne, Sparkling and Prosecco Wines: Champagne , Sparkling & Prosecco Food matches: With the richer styles, choose seafood and richer canapés, while lighter styles suit antipasto, fried foods and fresh fruit. Dessert and Fortified wines Wines: Botrytis , Tawny , Muscat/Topaque  Food matches: Botrytis: Cream or fruit-based desserts, pâté. Tawny: Cheddar & blue cheese, dried & fresh fruit, nuts. Topaque: Caramel-based desserts. Muscat: Chocolate-based desserts, dates & dried figs, ice cream.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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