Old thoughts on wine label awards

It’s great that winemag.co.za is organising a wine label competition (and it probably doesn’t matter too much to anyone else that it’s sponsored by a wine label printer). It took me back in time….

grape-6Grape, in its earliest incarnation as a very modest but hopeful little print magazine, organised South Africa’s first such competition way back in 2000. And being resolutely independent of commercial interests, we had no sponsor – though we depended generally for costs on donations. And being naive, and not being motivated by money-making, there was no entry fee – I’m somewhat horrified to see that there’s an entry fee of R300 per bottle for this one. Clearly a lot of money is going to accrue to the organisers! And no wonder the print Grape, poor old idealistic, quixotic project that it was, collapsed five years later – having achieved, though, quite a few firsts, apart from the label competition.

Unfortunately, I no longer have in electronic form the edition in which we announced the award – nor our unique venture into glossy full colour with the awards brochure. Melvyn Minnaar chaired the judges in the competition, and wrote a very good piece reflecting on the results. Not entirely uncritical. Here’s part of his first two paragraphs:

“If the judges, who came to this first effort to gauge merit in a very specific field with open minds in search of aesthetic adventure, had hoped to be charmed by an emerging local look, a unique Cape persona, they were presented with a kaleidoscope that did refract some sparkling gems, but with limited originality.

“There are some very good labels out there, and the judges had great respect for those they selected as winners – and for many others. But South African labels and packaging are mostly a run-of-the-mill thing….”

grape-awards-1The winner was in fact an associated pair of bottles – Sejana Cab and Naledi Merlot, which were expensive but not very good wines in those days. When I google these names now, I see the designs have been heavily tweaked, though they’re still recognisable. In fact a lot of the Top Ten that we presented were notably elegant designs: those of Boekenhoutskloof, Uitsig, Waterford Kevin Arnold, Plaisir de Merle, Oranjerivier Cellars, Joubert Tradauw R62, Axe Hill port, are all still pretty much the same, and stand the test of time very well.

The Wildekrans labels have utterly changed (much for the worse in my opinion). Von Ortloff No 7 Merlot has disappeared, and so has the only quirky winner: Oscar’s Easy Red, offered by then-retailer Oscar Foulkes and – as I recall, the Cape’s first bottle of screwcapped wine (is that right?).

Anthony Lane Design Consultancy was heavily represented among the Top Ten (including the winning bottles), and I suspect he’ll be around in the winemag competition too. But it’s clear that the overall standard has risen since then (not to mention the sheer growth in numbers), and the range. It’s going to be a much harder job for the judges this time round.

Incidentally, there was another local label competition, in 2005 – like winemag’s, with a sponsor heavily involved in label production, the Finnish company Raflatac, ‘one of the world’s leading suppliers of paper-based and filmic pressure sensitive label stock’. As Grape reported: “Apparently the competition was not restricted to those labels making use of the sponsor’s materials: while the top individual label did not, in fact, do so, the other three recently announced winners did.” Which is interesting, of course…. Vergelegen V, another Anthony Lane design, came top in the individual wine category (Tall Horse the runner-up); KWV Golden Kaan won in the range category.

5 thoughts on “Old thoughts on wine label awards

  1. Cape’s first screwcap? what about the Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1983 of which we did 50×6 and still holding well – gladly the first and last we did on Kanonkop!

  2. Oh! Well, if I’d thought about the Cape’s BEST screwcap wine, I might have remembered! Thanks Johann, I had forgotten about that experiment of yours – but it wasn’t commercially released as such, I suppose, so maybe it doesn’t count? Seriously – if anyone knows of any earlier commercial release under screwcap, please let me know. It’s something that needs to be documented, along with all the other information that is disappearing and becoming the subject of equally-disappearing memories….

  3. As I said: 50×6 under screwcap of which I would guess 45×6 being sold commercially. Manually filled the wine on Kanonkop,klingwrapped the bottles and then raced over to SFW who did the screw job with then Tassenberg caps!

  4. OK, you win. Kanonkop usually does. But that means Tassies was already under screwcap? So I’m decades out about the first. I thought the problem here was that the bottles for screwcaps were not locally available and had to be imported. Would they have done that for Tassenberg? Or were volumes such that they had a specially made bottle from Consol? Bruwer Raats said (I think) that his 2005 Chenin was the first screwcapped wine with ALL locally manufactured components.

  5. For interest, why “gladly the first and the last” if the wine is holding up so well?
    Drifting from topic, why a sponsor when effidently the producers are coughing up yet another bundle to have their labels glanced at?
    Hopefully the sticker is exceptionally well designed to fit this amazingly designed label….

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