A wine label’s main job is, of course, for consumers to be able to identify a brand. Seems obvious but the intricacies that go into a successful label go far deeper than that. A good label should, in a manner, tell the story of not only of its region but also of its country of origin, while still managing to persuade someone to reach for it on the shelf.
It’s fairly easy to pick out a French label from the fray (not quite as easy to understand it, mind you). Or German and Italian labels, for that matter.
Things start to get a bit murkier though as we cross over into the New World. Generally, the countries of the New World are a blend of cultures – and this makes pinning down a visual identity complicated. What we do often see, and here South Africa and Australia are quite alike, are the depictions of fauna and flora, as well as the use of bright colours.
Then there are also the more contemporary, design-led labels which definitely appeal to a younger, hipper market.
Where we differ from the Aussies, however, is that thrown into this mix are the more traditional French homestead style of labels too. It’s confusing.
South Africa – which is not called the ‘Rainbow Nation’ for nothing – is a place of massively divergent cultures. So, what’s the unifying thread? I like to think it’s our nature, our biodiversity. It’s something that resonates with most of us – our natural beauty and rich ecology are sources of national pride.
Though this use of fauna is not just a way for us to stamp South Africa onto a wine – but also a way to underscore the importance of sustainability in our winelands. These labels highlight all the various eco-systems that help maintain our microclimates – so important for making good wines.
Animal labels are nothing new. And while it’s true that some of these labels can seem tacky and pandering (read: created solely for the tourism market), there’s an emergence of a more polished category.
These wine labels, like our currency, the rand, seem inherently South African to me. I have no doubt that I’d be able to pick one off a shelf anywhere in the world.
While there are simply too many to mention, with labels spanning across the entire animal kingdom from frogs to elephants, and even birds and fish, here are some of my favourites:
Cape Rock Wines
Named for the Cape rock lobster (aka the crayfish), it’s an utterly West Coast symbol. You’ll find this winery between the towns of Vredendal and Klawer. They’re growing interesting varieties of red- and white-wine grapes, Carignan and Roussanne.
Blue Owl by Allée Bleue
The Blue Owl range is in honour of a nest found in a building on the Franschhoek farm, home to an owl and a pair of owlets.
Neethlingshof Short Story Collection: The Caracal
This Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend has recently been renamed The Caracal to celebrate the return of the rooikat (African lynx) to Neethlingshof. The wine estate’s efforts to conserve and rehabilitate areas of indigenous habitat are paying off, with the rooikatte now also breeding on Neethlingshof.
What is your favourite animal-inspired label? Let us know and tweet us at @WOSA_ZA
– Malu Lambert