Art and old vines – update

Two things have reminded me that perhaps it’s time to give an update on the splendid getting together of probably the country’s best-known artist and one of its best-known winemakers. Firstly, the news trickling in of the success of William Kentridge’s production of Shostakovich’s opera The Nose, which opened recently at the Met in New York (coinciding with the exhibition of his work showing at the Museum of Modern Art there).

Secondly, a rather interesting forum on Jancis Robinson’s website, after she’d asked for information towards an article she’s planning on old vines and vineyards around the world (no link, as it’s on the restricted part of the website). I  chipped in with info about the series of wines from old Cape vineyards that Eben Sadie is going to be releasing later this year.

The connection between the two of them being, as I reported some time back, that Kentridge agreed to do some artwork to appear on the labels of these vines – and I related the story of a visit the artist made to the old vineyards, mostly in the Olifants River and Swartland areas. The update is firstly that, six or so weeks back, before leaving for rehearsals and other stagework in New York, William delivered the artwork to be turned into labels.

William is not designing the labels himself, as has been suggested elsewhere – not that he’s too grand to stoop to that, but in fact he doesn’t much fancy his expertise as a graphic designer, and expressed satisfaction that he could pass on the art and leave the problem (such as it is) of turning them into labels up to someone else. Problem? Well, take the fact that a few (not all) of the bits of original artwork are themselves a few square metres in size…. In fact, those drawings were made with the reduced scale in mind, and are going to work very well on labels, I think. The snippets alongside (from separate and very different drawings) are on a fairly large scale, and don’t, I trust, give too much away about what the label images will look like; though you might make out some elements of bushvines….

For the finished labels – with the wine – we’ll have to wait until we’re pretty far into winter. The six 2009 wines will be bottled around the end of June. And then labelled – very hands-on stuff. Eben tells me that he just today ordered “a little wet glue machine which will enable us to put glue on any paper, as we will do these in true old style on old wet glue papers” – thus avoiding the very limited range of papers available with self-adhesive labels. Not to mention that this methodology “also keeps up with yesterdays ways of doing things”. Not to mention that a few people might want to be able to peel off the labels, once the bottle’s contents have been drunk – much easier to do with old-fashioned glue.

Incidentally, the second harvest of new wines off these old vineyards (if you see what I mean) has just been made, of course. Some anxiety about the oldest of all, the one called ‘t Voetpad – ravening birds had got to to it before the grape-pickers did (click here for more about that fascinating vineyard). But fortunately there were enough grapes to make a barrel of 2010. And the vintage, says Eben, is very promising.

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