We really enjoyed London Wine Week earlier this month. Although we weren’t official partners, we took it as an opportunity to explore some new venues (The 10 Cases), drink some better wines (The Chocolate Block) and share them with enthusiastic friends (hello It’s Nice That).
There were many events aimed at the amateur-to-enthusiast level, including the Wine Car Boot and the London Wine Sessions. The wine world is becoming ever more accessible, unpretentious and, above all, fun and this is a Good Thing.
But still, across Twitter we saw many examples of the exclusive, invite-only world of fine wine. Premium producers presenting their wines to a captive audience of well-know wine writers and merchants. “Off to a vertical tasting of Chateau Megabuques!!!”, “The 1945 was not a patch on the 1934”, “So grateful to the Luxembourg High Commission for their champagne and unicorn tears reception”. It’s a different league of people and wine which feels very disconnected from what ‘London’ is probably drinking that week. (That is, whatever is around £8 in Sainsbury’s or not-over-£25 in Byron.) And doesn’t this just look awfully boring.
A recent post by 12x75.com entitled ‘When ordinary people taste extraordinary wines’ got me thinking about this. I am an ordinary person, but at the same time, no less important than those at the Bruno Paillard tasting. If those ‘premium wines’ are only every shared amongst and tasted by ‘premium people’ then they are as good as dead to the rest of us. How dull, how boring, how depressing to think that those wines are only ever shared and compared by the same small group of people, year-in, year-out. I’m fairly sure that just one bottle of Bruno Paillard, shared amongst six ‘ordinary people’ would produce more debate, pleasure and magic than however many were drunk in Michelin-starred establishments during London Wine Week.
There are great efforts to bridge the divide. Sager+Wilde are more than eager to open up something fine and old, and share it with anyone who wants to try. Similarly The Sampler has its ‘Icons’ tasting selection at both its stores. But on the whole it feels like the good stuff (as with most things, really) is kept for the rich and/or influential. Yes, this post is at least 80% jealousy – where’s our sodding invite – but when Robert Parker tweets a $100 bottle of wine as a ‘palette cleanser’ it certainly leaves a sour taste in our mouths.
Yesterday was the last day of London Wine Week, and by the looks of it a glorious sun-filled finale at the Wine Car Boot. We, however, made do with some cans of Magners in a car park.
Last Thursday we were very pleased to serve up some vinous delights to the team at It’s Nice That, and what could be a better match to their eclectic mix of art, design, music and publishing than an introduction the the what and why of wine blends.
First up was a classic Langudoc blend of Grenache, Marsanne, Vermentino and Rousanne. Well-balanced, with no particular grape making itself known, at 13.5% ABV is was a rich boozy mouthful – perfect with ripe soft cheeses – but not especially refined.
In contrast to that was the Evolution White ‘16th Edition’ blend of nine different grapes. Heavenly honeysuckle scents and a sweet but fresh palate, like tropical Chewits, this wine would be a great match for fragrant Asian dishes and fresh sushi.
So pleased were we with the Schild Estate GMS that we tried last Tuesday, it was no issue to try it again here as an example of a Rhone blend with added Aussie oomph. Rich, bloody and spicy, it divided the group, some saying ti was too bitter, others enjoying its guts.
Lastly, and the most expensive wine of the evening, was the Shiraz-dominated The Chocolate Block 2012 from Boekenhoutskloof, South Africa. Powerful but balanced, with blackcurrant juice and rich, smooth flavours.It was certainly the winner of the evening, and a beautiful example of the power for blends to be greater than the sum of their parts.
We drank up the remainder and headed to Duke’s Brew & Que for an astounding selection of pulled pork and beef ribs, plus a couple of pints. Many thanks to the It’s Nice That team for their hospitality, questions and enthusiasm – cheers!
It’s London Wine Week and we’ve been tagging along by drinking as much wine as possible and sharing it with
Earlier this week we had a mini tasting of two of our absolute favourite wine styles, Austrian Grüner Veltliner and an Australian Grenache/Mouvedre/Shiraz.
The Grüner was crisp and fresh, backed up by fizzy citrus fruit — lemon’n’lime Chewits. Clean and tingly, like electrified silver on the tongue.
The Barossa GMS was medium-weight, soft and boozy in the mouth, but with a bloody, farmyardy after taste, much more savoury than we were expecting. Would be perfect with some hay-roasted beef or charred lamb.
Packaging design expert Kevin Shaw reveals some sobering facts about the environmental impact of wine bottles.
This year we launched a square wine bottle called California Square. Total Wines was, like Safeway, progressive enough to trial it and its floor staff were briefed to talk about the benefits of greener packaging. Of course, the bottling line bitched and whined about the fact that it would be impossible to use square bottles, and did that right up to the point when we pointed out that three of the biggest liquor brands in the world come in square format. The wine trade has a lot of people for whom the computer always says no.
Christmas is coming and you want to buy a present for your wine-loving designer friend. Somewhere in the back of your mind you remember that they mentioned a love of fine Bordeaux. Or was it Barolo? What’s the difference? Doesn’t matter, they’re both seem to be awfully bloody pricey.
If you find yourself in this situation, do not resort to the designer ‘wine-ephemera’ trap. Your wine-loving friend has a fancy over-engineered corkscrew, or ten, and I guarantee they use their cheap Waiter’s Friend. They already have nice glasses, a handy foil-cutter (‘knife’) and elegant drip-collar (‘kitchen roll’). And if you think that “I love to cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food” fridge magnet/coaster/tea towel is hilarity incarnate, well, your friendship is doomed.
Do you know what your wine-loving friend wants? Wine. Just wine. Wine, wine, wine. Red, white, fizzy or flat, they’ll be grateful either way, whether it’s a bottle they can keep for years or one to wash down their Friday fajitas.
We’re not against choosing a bottle based on the label (if people didn’t judge a book by its cover, graphic designers would be out of a job), but we’ve chosen six beautiful AND delicious wines for you to buy your wino/designo friend this Christmas. Just make sure to give it to them with a casual “Great label, huh? I wonder what it tastes like…”
1. Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2009; Sussex, England – available from Waitrose, £29.99 English sparkling wine keeps on getting better and better, but sadly the same can’t be said for their labels. In 2012, following over 20 years of using the same labelling and branding, Nyetimber worked with design agency Made Thought to modernise and refresh the brand. The end result (and the wine) is refined, elegant and with classic English reserve.
2. Evolution White; Oregon, USA – available from The City Beverage Company, £13.49 There’s a lot going on with the design of this label, but there’s a lot going on inside the bottle too. With nine different grape varieties blended together, this could be a recipe for disaster (as it says on the bottle ‘Luck vs. Intention’) but the resulting wine is fresh, fruity and very moreish.
3. Bergrettung Riesling 2012; Mosel, Germany – available from OddBins, £16.00 OddBins lost its way a few years ago, but there are signs that the old enthusiasm for unusual and creative wines is back. Bergrettung (‘mountain rescue’) comes from a collaboration between ten wineries to save historic vineyards in particularly steep sites in Germany’s beautiful Mosel Valley. Restrained, crisp, clean – and that’s just the typography.
4. Casa Mariol Samsó Criança 2009; Terra Alta, Spain – available from Bottle Apostle, £9.90 If your friends are the kind of hip young things spend weekends chewing their face off in underground Berlin bunkers, they’d probably appreciate the ravey aesthetic of this wine at their next Dalston house party. Produced by Casa Mariol from the naturally tannic Samsó (Carignan) grape and aged in oak for 16 months, this is rich, spicy and ideal for boxing day gammon.
5. Bodegas Carchelo 2011; Jumilla, Spain – available from Bottle Apostle, £10.35 This deep, gutsy, modern blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell and Syrah from the lesser-known Spanish region of Jumilla has been our favourite wine for the last year. The bold design, from the Beetlejuice-striped foil right down to the quote printed on the side of the cork, is pretty natty.
6. Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2009; Bordeaux, France – available from your fine wine merchant, around £600 Since 1945, Mouton Rothschild have commissioned an artist to adorn their label, from Picasso to Warhol, Dali to, er, Prince Charles. For the more sophisticated (and much, much richer) gift-giver, then the 2009 vintage of this Premier Cru Bordeaux will certainly impress, featuring a rich, brooding canvas by Anish Kapoor.
We are very pleased to let you know that we have an article published in HoHoHo, a journal of Christmas creativity. We’ve written about what to buy for your wino-designo friend (wine, stupid!) and picked six of the most beautiful and delicious wines for you to enjoy this Christmas. All the wines are available in London from Waitrose, Bottle Apostle, OddBins and The City Beverage Company.
You can pick up a copy from various hip designy outlets across Clerkenwell and Covent Garden, including Magma, Workshop Coffee, Look Mum No Hands and Sadler’s Wells theatre.
Thanks to Cai and Kyn for asking us to contribute! We’ll post the article here in the new year – you’ll have to get your own copy before then.
We just saw some shots of the new D&AD Annual (check it out here, it’s beautiful) and one of the pages reminded us of an issue we’ve mentioned before, but we’d like to discuss further.
The striped barber’s pole design for 'Rasurado' wine has been circulating across the internet, via Tumblr, Pinterest and The Dieline, and rightly so – it’s beautiful, striking piece of graphic design and branding. But – and we have really tried – we have been unable to find any other photo of the wine bottles other than the images on the Moruba website. No boxes, crates, product shots or consumer-taken photos of Rasurado brand. It’s not to be seen on the producer’s own website, and seemingly there are no reviews or stockists of the wine.
(In addition, if you look closely, you can see that reflections on the necks of the two bottles are identical, and the embossed numbers around the bases appear in the same location, despite viewing the bottle from ‘a different angle’.)
At Grogger, we see a lot of student work or concept visuals on blogs and websites, and a lot of it is creative, exciting and stunning work. But we are always reluctant to post any work that does not exist ‘in the real world’. The reason is partly that we are a wine blog as much as we are a design blog; we want to know about the grapes, the winemaker and what the contents of the bottle tastes like. But the reason is mainly that design projects (packaging, branding, interiors) are hard work, requiring as much creativity as hard work, persuasion, perseverance and compromise. To actually produce a stunning piece of creative design in response to a real brief (we would choose Paul Belford Ltd’s work for Waddeston Manor as a prime example) is a considerable achievement.
We can only assume (and we are happy to be corrected) that the Rasurado work produced by Moruba is a project that was never actually fully realised. Perhaps the images we see are concept visuals for a project that was never finished, or maybe they were a self-initiated project just for fun. Any creative agency will have hundreds of beautiful concepts and stunning visuals for projects that were never completed, or for routes that were developed or discarded. But we strongly believe that unless the work exists in the real world – a real thing that someone has asked for and received – it should not be entered into professional awards.
There have been increased debate about agencies entering mocked-up visuals as part of their awards entry. Is showing how your logo could look on a tote bag really such a crime? What if you comp the logo on billboard in Times Square? Or onto the moon? It’s hard to draw the line between awarding the actual work that was produced and acknowledging the great idea that could’ve been.
To us, entering the Rasurado design into the D&AD awards was a cheeky decision. D&AD make it very clear in their Rules of Entry that entries must be ‘commercially released’, ‘produced in response to a genuine brief from a client’ and ‘made available to the public through legal mediums’. We think that for D&AD to award it an in-book award is a dangerous precedent, and for those people entering real work that they have created and nurtured to fruition, it could leave a bitter taste in their mouth.