Dan's Blog

More Food For Thought

Friday, April 05, 2019

Last week I raved on about the wastage of content on back labels where winemakers sprout all sorts of unhelpful information to their potential consumers. Well, this week I am starting with the front labels.

FRONT LABEL CONTENT: A few days ago I went up to the Clare Valley to “test drive” a brilliant, new, upmarket wine tour of the Valley, which is sure to attract heaps of tourist customers. The three wineries involved in the Spring Gully Wine Journey are cleverly innovative. The tour includes a subtle wine education component whereby the patrons of the tour will depart knowing a bit more about wine without being bored stupid by technical talk of acid levels, Baume at picking, cold maceration, whole bunch ferments, etc.

The reason I mention the problem with the content on front labels is that at one of the wineries I visited in the Clare, I was at the far end of the tasting table and had to keep asking what vintage the wine was as I could not read it off the bottle from that distance.

This reminded me of the heady days in 2000 when I was General Manager of Yaldara Wines and we were in the process of re-labelling all the wines which we kept from the previous portfolio. Our graphic designer, Peter Wyatt, came up with some excellent label designs and along the way I created, “Dan’s Two Metre Rule”. It simply says that if from two metres away from the bottle of wine you can’t read the Brand name, the Variety or the Vintage, then consumers will not pick it up off the shelf in the bottle shop (unless of course, it is heavily discounted).

There are, in my opinion, only a few basic rules for effective front labels:

1: Must pass Dan’s two metre rule.

2: Black labels on red wine don’t work – unless you are Henschke Wines from the Barossa which have been around for decades, or the writing on the label is in silver coloured font, like Reillys Wines Dry Land reds from the Clare.

3: The label design should reflect/appeal to your target market. Old fashioned chateau style labels will not work with the younger generation. Likewise, funky new hip labels will not attract the older wine drinkers to your wine. So work out who you are aiming it at, as you can’t be all things to all people.

ANOTHER COUPLE OF ‘NEWBIES’:  Previously I had advised that there were 152 different grape varieties grown in Australia. This makes us the most adventuresome winemakers on the planet, as only three of these varieties are native (having been generated by CSIRO).

Well, I would like to advise that the number of varieties grown has risen by two. When I was in the Clare Valley the other day tasting the delicious wines of Matriarch & Rogue, the owner/winemaker trotted out barrel samples of her 2019 Fernao Pires (Portuguese aromatic white) and Prieto Picuedo (deeply coloured Spanish red). What the @@@@? Yep, two Iberian varieties which were grown in the Riverland and turned into very attractive wines by the talented Marnie Roberts, owner/winemaker of Matriarch & Rogue.  

I can’t wait to taste the finished wines! They should be absolute crackers, but perhaps over time they will need to have easier names to say and remember. Fernao Pires already has ten synonyms in Portugal, so one more from Australia probably wouldn’t go astray. Perhaps “Freddy Pines”, “White Freddy” or “Portuguese Freddy” – What do you think? If you come up with a good Aussie name for either or both of these new varieties please give me a yell and I will see if I can persuade Marnie to use it when she bottles her very first vintage of these new and exciting emerging varietals.

Cheers and enjoy experimenting with interesting new wines this week!


This week I am talking about a Clare Valley Shiraz. The Clare region is better known for its Riesling and Cabernet, however, there are some absolutely sensational Shiraz produced in the Clare Valley, and this is one of them.

The REILLYS 2016 ‘DRY LAND’ SHIRAZ is the wine I am talking about. Made from dry grown grapes which are handpicked from the 1919 planted Home Block (Yep! 100-years-old this year!!) and the Thomas vineyard. The grapes were then open vat fermented before the wine was matured in oak for two years. 

Winemaker/owner, Dr Justin Ardill of REILLYS WINES is a firm believer in minimal intervention so as to achieve maximum flavour and quality in the wine. This wine really expresses that philosophy. So much so that it won a gold medal and trophy in the 2018 New Zealand International Wine Show.

It is a big, bright red/purple wine, with vibrant aromas of ripe red berries, a smidge of plum, some mocha, a smattering of black pepper and a few herbs aromas thrown in to fully complex the bouquet. The palate is big, rich and powerful with great depth and structure and a very elegant, lingering finish. This is a superb wine which can be equally enjoyed on its own or with delicious, fairly rich food dishes.

This is one of several outstanding wines produced by REILLYS WINES, which includes the divine 2018 SANGIOVESE, 2017 GSM, and an absolutely cracking, 2017 MERLOT. It will be interesting to see how their 2019 SAGRANTINO (their first one) turns out – I suspect it will be a case of “watch this space”.

Cheers and have a great week enjoying quality Australian wines!