The Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that “wine is bottled poetry”. While the quote has gone on to adorn everything from scatter cushions to needlepoint and the occasional coaster, it had me thinking: if the wine is the poetry, then what of the label? I decided to explore the relationship between wine and art. Along the way, I found three South African wines featuring the works of local artists: the first a homage to a South African great, the second a collaboration between artist and winemaker, and the last incorporating the work of a painter and musicians.
The label: Tamboerskloof John Spicer Syrah 2015
The artist: Jeanne Gaigher
The musicians: Rob Brinkworth and Kyle Shepherd
The jewel in the crown of the Kleinood farm has to be the parcel of grapes that goes into their flagship wine, the John Spicer Syrah. As has been the case since 2009, every release of the wine is accompanied by a wine bottle wrapper commissioned by a different artist. For the current release (2015 vintage) the team approached artist Jeanne Gaigher. She drew inspiration from the farm, finally settling on the frogs in and around its dam and river as the theme. This was the start of a creative endeavour unlike any Kleinood has done before, and a project perfectly suited to celebrating the farm’s 21st anniversary. “If we could taste and smell the farm in a bottle of wine and see an imagined portrayal of Kleinood fauna through art, why, then, could we not hear what the farm sounds like? So The Kleinood Nocturne was born,” the Kleinood team explains.The piece was created by critically acclaimed jazz pianist Kyle Shepherd in collaboration with sound artist Rob Brinkworth. The idea was to capture and interpret through music the sounds of the journey from sunset to sunrise on Kleinood farm. It’s a complete sensory experience, and can be streamed on www.kleinood.com.
The wine: The Tamboerskloof John Spicer Syrah 2015 is impressively multifaceted and intense, with the palate showing layers of aromatic spices and hints of fynbos mingling with ripe red and black fruits, confected berry, tobacco, charcuterie, and the signature Syrah note of white pepper supported by silky tannins, a balancing fresh acidity, and a powerful finish.
The label: Lionel Smit Wines
The artist: Lionel Smit
The winemaker: Bernhard Bredell
Acclaimed artist Lionel Smit met Bernhard Bredell, the Scions of Sinai winemaker, in 2011. “This collaboration happened so naturally, just like his wine,” says Smit. “I thought we were just having fun, but then Series #1 ended up with amazing remarks from international wine critics.” Naturally, Bredell handles the winemaking endeavours while Smit does the packaging. He notes that it is a true collaboration, with constant consulting — usually over a glass or three.
The wine: The idea is to release two wines each year. Currently, the white wines (series #1, #3, and #5) are grenache blanc (with #5 including the addition of chenin blanc), while the reds (#2, #4, and #6) are syrah-led blends with the inclusion of cinsault.
The label: Pink Valley Wines
The artist: Walter Battiss
The winemakers: Schalk-Willem Joubert and Petri Venter
The design for the Pink Valley labels was inspired by the unique nature of their rosé. The estate’s dedication to singularity and purpose, as well as a passion for this often-overlooked style of wine, led to their making and expressing a single specialist rosé wine — a South African first. Thus it was important that the label embodied the creative spirit and flair of the wine itself. “Our distinct philosophy to winemaking is enriched by our love of art. The work of South African painter Walter Battiss serves as our inspiration, with each label depicting its own unique personality,” says sales and marketing manager Mark Lester.The team’s passion for the craft of fine winemaking was paired with the concept of using a distinctive South African artist’s work as inspiration for the design. Battiss, renowned for his free-spirited and playful silkscreen images rooted in magical fantasy, was the perfect fit. Designers Eduard du Plessis, of the Walter Battiss Company, and Monty Filter, of brandtree, chose The Inventor — Walking Feathers. The four different “walking feathers” are each depicted on separate labels, while the shipper carton and gift tube show the complete artwork. “In essence, the wine labels are part of the complete artwork, as they all feature individual elements to create the entire artwork, in the same manner as the different complex tasting notes create the complete rosé,” says Lester.
The wine: The Pink Valley rosé is a blend of grenache (80%), sangiovese (10%), shiraz (5%), and cinsault (5%). A blush, pale onionskin with an almost pearlescent sheen, the wine is both complex and quaffable — showing a range of tropical and melon fruits and a touch of citrus, accompanied by a zingy acidity, luscious mouthfeel, and long-lingering finish.
• From the September issue of Wanted 2021.