Bottles with table appeal
Author: Sophie Thorpe
Everyone knows you should never judge a book by its cover, nor buy a wine based on its label, but even we admit that there are occasions on which the bottle matters almost as much as the liquid inside. Whether for a dinner party or date, there are those moments when a wine should impress; when a wine should stand proudly, hands on hips, shoulders square, wearing its label with pride; even those times when a wine label should be the cause of conversation.
It’s impossible to talk labels without mentioning Ch. Mouton Rothschild – the first producer to start bottling and labelling all their own wines in 1924, originally as defence against forgery (before this point they were shipped in barrel, then bottled and labelled by merchants). The first label was designed by Jean Carlu, a cubist artist, as a one-off. In 1945 Baron Philippe Rothschild commissioned Philippe Jullian to design a label in honour of the Allied victory, bearing the iconic ‘V’. From then on, an artist was asked to create a unique piece of art for the label every year. The roster so far includes Chagall, Picasso, Dalí, Koons and many more. Of course, the labels and the wines are collectors’ items, with prices to match.
With the view that one shouldn’t drink Mouton every day, we’ve put together a short-list of wines that both look and taste outrageously good.
2012 Domaine de Trévallon Rouge, Alpilles, Vin de Pays d’OcThis biodynamic beauty is made by Eloi Dürrbach, the son of René Dürrbach – painter, sculptor and a close friend of Picasso’s. René originally bought Domaine de Trévallon in 1955, thinking of retirement; it was only in 1973 that his son decided to move out of Paris and set up a winery. Eloi gave his father 50 labels, and the artist sketched the designs that the bottles bear today.
2012 Botanica Mary Delany Chenin Blanc, Citrusdal Mountain, South AfricaGinny Povall, the American behind Botanica, happened upon the work of 18th-century artist Mary Delany at the Yale Center for British Art. The intricate botanical collages of this septegenarian artist are now born by bottles made by Ginny’s own fair hands in the Cape.
2013 Pinot Noir, Nature, Domaine Lucas & André Rieffel, AlsaceStrikingly simple – if a little menacing – in appearance, Rieffel’s ‘Nature’ Pinot Noir is made (as one might guess from the name) naturally, offering sensual red fruit and a hint of nutmeg.
2012 Les Vignes Oubliées, Terrasses du Larzac, Coteaux du LanguedocOffering sheer simplicity, the supremely tasteful bottles of Les Vignes Oubliées do exactly what they say on the tin. The aforementioned “forgotten vineyards” are terraced plots between 300 and 400 metres above sea-level in the Larzac foothills, filled with old and gnarly vines that – in the hands of Jean-Baptiste Granier – produce silky, garrigue-laden wines.
2012 Côte-Rôtie, Barbarine, Domaine Yves Gangloff, RhôneWe could have picked any of Gangloff’s wines, whose bottles are some of the ‘barest’ in our cellars. Adorned by voluptuous nudes, the risqué labels are painted by Yves’s brother Pierre. It was on a visit to Pierre’s new atelier in Ampuis that Yves met his wife Mathilde, ended up settling down and eventually making extraordinarily good wine.
Of course, these are just five of our favourites; you can browse a larger selection of equally attractive bottles on bbr.com.