Vote for your favourite Zabava label

 The three front runners. No 'Label McBoatyLabelFace' option here

The three front runners. No 'Label McBoatyLabelFace' option here

Chris Boiling, Zabava's winemaker, explains the story behind the label and why the artwork is painted in wine...

I see winemaking as an art. I also want to put a smile on people’s faces with my wine and I’d like to imitate the master winemakers that I’ve met on my travels.
They are my goals. So I was particularly interested in a copy of the Mona Lisa that I’d seen in Food & Wine. It had been painted in wine. The young artist who created the image, Sanja Jankovic, brilliantly captures Mona Lisa’s famous smile. Not an easy thing to do under any circumstances let alone using “controlled wine stains”.
As I was thinking about the design for my wine label at the time, I delved a little bit deeper into her work. On the Behance website there are some amazing images of the cast of Game of Thrones, including Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister).

There are also reproductions of famous paintings by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Gustav Klimt and Frans Snyders, portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and family portraits. The work is stunning. The collection is impressive as a portfolio, even more so when you consider Sanja is working with a limited range of colours. 
It’s mostly shades of blue, purple and brown from layers of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sometimes, when Sanja is feeling flush, Pinot Noir is used.  Rosés are used to add warmth while white  wines — typically Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc — are used as solvents or to add shades of green, yellow and gold. 
I was so impressed with the young Serbian artist that I commissioned her to design the logo for this website, ywine.press, its forthcoming wine club, ywine.club, and the labels for my wine. As time was tight and the budget even tighter, we agreed to use some of her existing artwork as the focal point of the design. 
My favourite is the painting of grapes from a friend’s garden (shown above). But she also designed the labels with her ‘Wine Lisa’ and Snyders fruit basket still life (also above) to gauge the public’s taste. We have put the images on our Facebook, Sanja's Facebook and my Twitter pages to see which design our friends and families like best. 

 Sanja in her studio

Sanja in her studio

Sanja discovered her passion for wine painting about 18 months ago during a wine tasting at the Kovacevic winery in Serbia. “The idea — as any and every idea — just clicked unexpectedly when they said they loved my previous art work and wanted to order a few paintings from me,” Sanja recalls. “I was thinking, what would be the best possible thing to paint for a renowned winery? After a short while I got a bit dizzy and just… well…”
A little embarrassed, she told me she walked out of the tasting with some of the half-finished wine samples in her hands. “Everybody gave me a very awkward glance on my way out. From their side, it must have looked very odd, but from mine, a new idea had emerged and had to be realised as soon as possible.
“I still feel a bit embarrassed when I remember my acts on that day, but the result was the first Winerelle, which I took back to the winery as a gift.”
Winerelle is her term for 'wine painting' and has become the name of her wine painting project, which can be viewed here.  

Of the Zabava wine label, Sanja says: “What I did for Zabava is making a label that possesses an artistic value combined with design. I was very attracted to the fact that Zabava is made of an obscure grape variety, which is great and for sure deserves more attention. For Zabava I ‘borrowed’ a few paintings from my collection.”
Since starting this project, Sanja has been commissioned to produce a series of wine paintings and a mosaic of used corks for a group of wine bars and shops in Serbia. 
Sanja’s ultimate dream is to travel the world painting wineries, vineyards and winemakers using their own wines. To commission a painting from Sanja contact her via Facebook or Behance.

 

Is this the most interesting wedding wine list ever?

Father hijacks daughter’s wedding theme to promote obscure grape varieties

Don’t tell the bride but her wine-loving father has hijacked her theme to promote some obscure grape varieties.

Wine writer and part-time winemaker Chris Boiling aims to use his daughter’s wedding to raise the profile of Laški Rizling, Juhfark, Blaufränkisch, Kadarka, Furmint, Plavac Mali, and Rară Neagră.

“These are some of the world’s finest and least-known grape varieties,” Chris said, as he unpacked the latest delivery of wedding wine – 24 bottles of Juhfark from a variety of producers in Somló, Hungary.

“I think the official theme for the wedding is green, as my daughter’s name is Jade,” Chris said. “I’ve been put in charge of the wine and I’m sort of sticking with the theme in that half the grapes were green before they were turned into wine and most of the bottles are green. But I think it’s a great opportunity to convince the 70 guests to look beyond Pinot Grigio and Merlot. All the wines I’ve selected are from lesser-known wine regions and feature lesser-known and vastly underrated grape varieties.”

 Chris examines the interesting line-up of wines

Chris examines the interesting line-up of wines

He said he is turning his father-of-the-bride speech into a wine tasting that will span the course of the meal, with the descriptions and stories behind the wines tenuously linked to stories of the bride and groom. He reckons the Schieber Bikavér 2013 reminds him of his son-in-law-to-be: “When we first met Phil he’d spent the night on a park bench after coming back from Spain late at night. His hair was all over the place and he was unshaven. When I first encountered Bikavér it was known as Bull’s Blood – it was cheap and rough – but now it is quite sophisticated. It’s a smooth, stylish blend featuring Blaufränkisch and Kadarka.”

No wedding is complete without the rare Hungarian grape Juhfark, argues Chris. “It was THE wedding wine during the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” he said. “The Hapsburgs used to order it for royal weddings because the grapes are grown on an extinct volcano and the high mineral content was thought to be the cause of the higher proportion of males born in the area. That’s one reason I’m using it, the other is for the sniggers – Juhfark is pronounced you-fark.”

 A selection of Juhfarks - THE wedding wine!

A selection of Juhfarks - THE wedding wine!

The main focus, however, will be the four Laški Rizling wines. This is because this is the grape variety that Chris and wife Karen grow at their small vineyard in northeast Slovenia, in the historic wine-producing region of Jeruzalem-Ormož. “It’s the workhorse variety of Central Europe but in the right hands – not mine, obviously – but in the hands of Philipp Oser at Villa Tolnay in Hungary and Uroš Valcl of Marof in Slovenia, it becomes a delicious, special white wine that ages with interesting results. Philipp says it’s the best ambassador of terroir that he has found. As a surprise for the bride and groom there is also a Laški from their birth year – 1990. It’s an auslese from the archive of P&F in Slovenia.”

 The wedding will be a Laški Rizling fest

The wedding will be a Laški Rizling fest

Chris got the idea for educating the 70 wedding guests about the delights of Laški (also known as Welschriesling, Graševina and Olaszrizling in different parts of the world) while writing his monthly column, Diary of a Dream, for JancisRobinson.com. “When I bought our vineyard in Slovenia, in a moment of madness, I asked about the grapes, heard the word ‘rizling’ and thought the grape variety was Riesling. But Laški Rizling is not even related. However, it does have its own merits and I thought more people should know about them. I’m using the occasion to give our family and friends their first taste of the wine I have made, but I also wanted to show them the best two examples I have found – the wines I aspire to make.”

Asked if he feels guilty about turning his father-of-the-bride speech into a Laški Rizling wine tasting, Chris said: “My daughter only has herself to blame. When she left home for university, my wife was devastated. Jade is our youngest daughter. My response to empty-nest syndrome was to find a project for my wife and me. A new hobby in a new country seemed like the ideal solution!”

The wedding will take place in an old fort in Cornwall.

 

Is this the most interesting wedding wine list?

The wine list in full

The welcome drink: Zlati Grič Konjiška Penina 2015 – a sparkling rosé made from young Blaufränkisch vines. “Young, fresh and sparkling – like the newlyweds,” is how Chris describes it.

For starters: Phil and Jade’s Wedding Wine, a Laški Rizling made by the father of the bride, Chris Boiling, in 2014. He also labelled it specially for the event. His goal this year is to sell one bottle of his 2015 vintage. “I aim to make 365 bottles a year. This year I have about 450 so I’d like to sell the spare ones and recoup some of my outlay. The price is £12 per bottle but that’s a fairly random figure as each bottle has cost me about €200 to make and it tastes like the wine you can get for €4 or €5 in a supermarket in Slovenia. But it is a limited edition and it is all made by hand, and I’m sure someone will be curious.”

Whites for the main course: Two of the world’s best Laški Rizlings from great years – Villa Tolnay Welschriesling 2008 (the year the bride and groom met at Plymouth University) and Marof Laški Rizling 2012; plus a selection of Juhfarks (a different producer, style and vintage for each table to encourage some mingling).

 Two interesting red blends: Schieber Obsitos Bikavér 2013 from Hungary and Equinox 5 Elemente 2013 from Moldova

Two interesting red blends: Schieber Obsitos Bikavér 2013 from Hungary and Equinox 5 Elemente 2013 from Moldova

Reds for the main course: Schieber Szekszárdi Obsitos Bikavér 2013 from Hungary (showing how Bull’s Blood has become more sophisticated); Equinox 5 Elemente 2013 from Moldova (another excellent red blend; this one features 25% Rară Neagră).

For dessert: Another expression of Laški Rizling – an auslese from the bride and groom’s birth year, 1990, from the archive of P&F in Slovenia; and a Tokaj Kereskedőház Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos – another Hungarian wine that claims to be great for weddings because “women want to and men can”. The main grape here is Furmint. The newlyweds and other couples will feed this dessert wine to each other on love spoons. “It was supposed to be Essenzia but that’s too expensive,” Chris said. “But this Aszu from the state-owned Kereskedőház is fantastic.”

For the toast: Something very special – a flagship English sparkling wine, the Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2010. Chris says: “I know Chardonnay is not a lesser-known grape variety but England certainly is an up-and-coming wine region that deserves more attention.”

 Slovenian and English fizz because Prosecco and Champagne are so 2015!

Slovenian and English fizz because Prosecco and Champagne are so 2015!

The party wine: Dry Furmints from Slovenia and Hungary, both from 2014 and made more or less the same way. The big difference between the P&F Furmint and the Kereskedőház Furmint is the soil. “Okay, not everyone wants to ponder this during a wedding party,” Chris admits, “but I will be asking some people if they can tell which one comes from volcanic soil. I expect people will be avoiding me by the end of the evening.” The red party wine is the Plavac Mali Majstor Barrique from Stina in Croatia. “It’s another fantastic red grape that deserves more recognition,” Chris says. “And Stina have a label that I’m sure will get people talking – it’s white and the lettering is embossed.”