For many people – or, perhaps more accurately, many of the only people worth knowing – wine goes hand-in-hand with music.
The same could also be said to be true of art and fashion, both beneficiaries of a mutual friendship with wine that’s as old as methods of Georgian winemaking itself (which is to say, it’s centuries old). Rarely are the benefits of this symbiosis gleaned as keenly as they are than in the designs of Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett, the formidable duo whose work for the label Romance Was Born draws liberally on the worlds of art and music to create a proposition for seeing the world through, well, rosé-coloured glasses.
It’s fitting then that their ongoing collaboration with the artist Del Kathryn Barton, with whom the designers recently reunited for their Resort 2018 collection Electro Orchid presented earlier this year at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia to the strains of Donna Summer’s greatest disco hits, should now take a more vinous form – that of a rosé produced in collaboration with South Australian winemaker Handpicked Wines. And though wine and music might be as natural a pairing as rosé and charcuterie, Sales suggests that this new shared undertaking is unlike any one song in particular, and instead runs a gamut “from classical [music] to pop in about three drinks!”
“It is just how we like our rosé: dry and crisp,” Sales tells GRAZIA. “When choosing wine, Anna and I usually joke, ‘It’s a safe bet if it’s French’, but in this instance we are so pleased to be championing an Australian rosé. We love it and feel it stacks up to anything we have previously tasted.” True to Sales’s word, the wine itself, made entirely from grapes sourced the Highbow Hill vineyard in the Yarra Valley, is refreshingly dry and falls toward the savoury side of the spectrum, boasting berry characteristics courtesy of the addition of Pinot Noir to the mix with additional complexity and texture derived from fermenting the Pinot juice on Marsanne skins.
“This wine is unique in what we offer,” adds Peter Dillon, Director of Winemaking at Handpicked Wines, who also considers that the winemaker and designers share a non-traditional approach to their respective creative industries, with each looking to differentiate themselves by providing their consumer with unique experiential offerings. “We started making a rosé about three years ago, but have continued to change and evolve how we make it. The Romance Was Born [collaboration] is the only rosé in our range this year. We admire the creativity [the designers] have in everything they do, and wanted to emulate that in this wine.”
That the pairing should arise at the time it has feels only natural considering what appears to be a move within the local wine industry toward partnering with designers and their fashion labels in an effort to capture attention on increasingly crowded and competitive shelves (not unlike the offering of the local retail landscape, some large-scale wine stores can sell up to 6,000 different bottles of wine).
And like the fashion industry, what we choose to drink contributes to an industry as significant in scale and value as what we choose to wear. In the last year, Australians consumed an estimated 550 million litres of wine, pricing the local industry within the ballpark of the $6.2 billion mark. Thanks to the prevailing perception that wine is more easily drunk than understood, many consumers admittedly purchase bottles based on price and occasion, often making the decision whether or not to purchase a bottle in the first two to five seconds they encounter it. Naturally, the label itself plays a significant role in the decision making process for many, despite what you’ve likely heard about judging books by their covers. Each acts as a kind of visual shorthand as much for the product within as for far more ineffable qualities to do with its making, including the wine’s provenance, the craftsmanship involved in its production and even its flavour. Ultimately, the combined effect creates an impression that the wine within your sights is more selective than its neighbour. You’re drinking, in effect, the image of the wine as much as the wine itself.
In the past, artists like Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Lucian Freud and Andy Warhol’s works have been used on the wine labels of international winemakers; likewise, designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Philippe Starck have lent a hand to label designs. Locally, the designer Dion Lee continues to collaborate with South Australian winemaker Bird in Hand on a series of bespoke bottle designs for a range of wines that includes a nero d’avola, a Montepulciano, pinot grigio and arneis, all of which launched in November last year. More recently, sparkling wine manufacturer Chandon partnered with swimwear label Seafolly on a series of limited edition decal designs in prints redolent of their resort wear. Each posits itself as much a ‘fashion accessory’ as a worthwhile drop.
Soon, Barton’s career will be the focus of The Highway is a Disco, the first survey of her practice to be staged at the National Gallery of Victoria and the artist’s largest ever solo show. The two-time Archibald Winner first met the design duo in 2005 and contributed prints of her artworks to garments that appeared in Romance’s first three collections. Last year, both parties collaborated on a textile-based work that appeared in Barton’s solo show, Angel Dribbel. Theirs, it would appear, is a pairing just asnatural and immune to time as wine and music. Asked what they would next like to work on together, were resources hypothetically out of the question, and Sales replies that they would consider collaborating on the construction of a house, or the design of a hotel. “We all quite like architecture and interiors,” says Sales. “We’d have to do every facet of it, from the hard surfaces to the soft furnishings.
“There would be a lot of dogs involved,” he adds. “We all love dogs.”
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