Did you know that the wine bottle label was invented in 19th century Bordeaux? Cyprien Gaulon, a Bordeaux printer, had the bright idea of making “vignettes” using the lithography technique that had recently been invented in Germany. It was no mean feat identifying crus before then what with wax seals, coloured wire around the neck and brushstrokes on the bottles. So the new printing process revolutionised wine identification by clearly telling the public where the crus came from.
Because there are people and history behind every label. Here in Bordeaux, châteaux and wineries of all sizes put their imagination and creativity into labels. From classic styles to images of the château (we can’t complain about our local architecture…), there’s an art and a question of choice in label design. Distribution method, storage time, target customer, product size, labelling technique, paper choice and budget are just some of the criteria it involves.
(Château Lusseau, Bordeaux Wine Route in Graves & Sauternes) ©Benoît Macaigne for Château Lusseau
The idea: a fun, sweet-talking wine to quaff carefree; tear up the rulebook and make Bordeaux a good times go-to. The result: a Burgundy-shaped bottle (sorry what? in Bordeaux? They didn’t? Oh yes they did!) and a series of 6 labels that are unconventional to say the least, with snapshots of Bérue (the winemaker’s nutty nickname) in all her glory. An eccentric wine made to party!
(Bô Médocain & Belle de Blaye cuvees) ©Pauline Lenain
Jérôme and Céline brought La Lettre M’s graphic designer Pauline on board to tell their love story on the labels for their two new vintages. She’s the daughter of a vine grower in Blaye. He’s a cellar master in Médoc crus. Between them, the Gironde Estuary. “The estuary soon set the scene for artistic experiments. I got the idea of splitting the paper in half, like the vine’s root delving into the soil, to create a modern and sleek design.” The technique on both labels blends gilt with warm gold to illuminate glints like little islands and curved varnish to showcase the water theme.
(Château Jouvente, Bordeaux Wine Routein Graves & Sauternes) ©Château Jouvente
Château Jouvente works with the art curator Ronan De la Croix on its Graves wine’s appearance. You have to choose between the sensuality of a nymph by Marie Casaÿs and the panther’s elegance by the street artist Caroline Desnoëttes for the château’s special vintages. Each exceptional vintage is adorned by the captivating wild cat that oozes power, agility and is named after a family member.
(Château Gravas, Bordeaux Wine Route in Graves & Sauternes) ©Château Gravas
They met 13 years ago and have been inseparable ever since! Florence and Michel Bernard, Château Gravas owners, and Paul Flickinger, artist, have formed an unbreakable bond bringing together art and wine. The artist designs, exhibits his work at the winery and provides his paintings to adorn the labels of some vintages for them. There’s a story behind every bottle: a tricolour trilogy born of their friendship with L’Esprit de Gravas (The Spirit of Gravas), Les Sensations de Gravas (The Sensations of Gravas) and La Tentation de Gravas (The Temptation of Gravas), whose label depicts the love between a man and woman who put the same passion into running their winery.
(Château Grand Launay, Blaye & Bourg) ©Château Grand Launay
Seeing his children drawing, Pierre Henri Cosyns remembered the château he’d drawn in his schoolbook that his father had used on a label. He asked them to unleash their inner artists, like he had 30 years before. The drawings by Henri and Léon, 7 and 10, appear on the label of some vintages and give the wine a refreshing carefree image. A childlike feel in a nod to the natural process of vines grown biodynamically.
(Château Mouton Rothschild, Médoc) ©Château Mouton Rothschild
Baron Philippe de Rothschild pioneered the merger between art and wine when, in 1924, he asked the graphic designer Jean Carlu to create an original piece. For the family, wine is an art that spans time. This marked the beginning of an artistic collaboration that was revived in 1945 with renowned artists every year without fail. 2018 saw the artist Xu Bing use traditional Chinese ideography to create his Square World Calligraphy, which was actually made up of Latin characters. Appearances can be deliciously deceiving. “L’art et l’étiquette” permanent exhibition at the Château, with original pieces, tours available to book.
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