Various research has shown that a wine label is a critical part of the package that will attract or otherwise, a potential purchase. Clearly, well known brands had to start somewhere and while today their label might be of less import, as some time in the past, the label was critical then and remains critical.
At La Vierge the choice of labels was considered over an extended period as it took 4 years before the winery was prepared to accept grapes from the new vines and then only for certain cultivars and then only in small quantities. The question of labels was discussed in the knowledge that there were a number of famous labels in the H&A region, labels that had been developed over many years. The H&A region lent itself to classical design by its very beauty. It is a premium wine area and humour with a “tongue in cheek” approach to the subject of wine did not easily fit in. Fundamental to the La Vierge investment, was that it should yield plenty of enjoyment and the quickest possible recognition from the public. In other words, the idea being that the winery did not have 15 years to be recognised.
Happily, in many discussions with British artist, Sir Michael Adams M.B.E, who is based in the Seychelles, his keen wit, a great painting talent and vibrant colourful palette, edged decisions towards one of the greatest stories of all time – a Biblical story immersed in wine with plenty of intrigue but admittedly little humour. The story was that of the Garden of Eden, a heady combination of the Tree of Knowledge, handsome Adam, glorious Eve, the serpent , an apple and the end of innocence. Once the story was in place the words associated with it which best described what happened were isolated and checked with the authorities with a view to registration as a brand. Another fundamental decision was that each label would be a brand rather than La Vierge (the Virgin) being a single brand.
Clearly the naming of the winery as La Vierge had as much to do with the story as it did with the virgin beauty of the land purchased for the planting of vineyards. Along with the story and the naming of the winery as La Vierge, was the reality that the vineyards were in the Hemel en Aarde Valley (the Valley of Heaven and Earth), nestling below Babylon mountain, a mountain higher than Table Mountain and very impressive in its own right. It all fitted. Coupled with this was Michael Adams’ great enthusiasm for all things “Oscar Wilde“ and throughout the wineries life quotes have been used in various forms and for various reasons.
The designers associated with labels such as Temptation, Seduction, Original Sin, Redemption, Jezebelle, Nymphomane, La Vierge Noir (the black virgin) used the artwork and colour palette of Michael Adams to obtain bright and striking designs. The original label for the original wine, being a Sauvignon Blanc (from a few old vineyards purchased separately to the main La Vierge farm) ,allowed for the first label print. This label was aligned to an expensive imported bottle chosen for its sinuous profile, clearly reflecting the excess of enthusiasm, talent and understanding of the wine industry by those involved.
The label was considered by the trade as excessively flamboyant and unbecoming of South African wines at the time and certainly not a reflection of what was associated with the Hemel en Aarde and its classical wineries. A real downer for all involved. Perhaps the first bad decision of many was made when the label was withdrawn as within the next 5 years, this label paled into insignificance flamboyant-wise compared to some offerings that hit the shelves. It is a cherished hope that this label will once more see itself on the shelf – hopefully soon.
An example of public interest in the labels were various questions about La Vierge Noir. This label is again based on biblical stories which emanate from the Christian Coptic Church in Ethiopia, which also believes in the Christ but that the story begins in Ethiopia and they have their own historical items that bear testimony to that possibility. We, with our African origin, considered that reference to the black virgin was most appropriate. Over the years as the farm yielded grapes that could be comfortably used age wise for winemaking, so the balance of the labels came into being.
It is safe to say that in the consumer’s mind there seems to be no grey area about our labels, they are loved or not loved and (in very few cases fortunately), were reviled on religious grounds. It would interest anyone reading this article to know that these labels are in fact run past leaders in the Christian church where they have generally been received with much mirth and an understanding that they simply reflect an historical event and make no religious statement. In fact, they celebrate life and all its convolutions. The labels continue to evolve and the fun and enthusiasm grows as the winery matures.
Clearly the wines behind the labels have equally been handled with great care and thought and it is generally accepted that the wine behind the labels is of great quality. Many additional names have been registered in excess of need but working around the name and label is certainly a wonderful way to spend one’s time. Before the questions. Decisions on target markets do come before the labels ! Indeed there is much more scientific input into label design than this story suggests.
This is after all just a story for possible interest. “The observer”