Melvyn Minnaar: Establishing gravitas – the case of Creation Wines
By Melvyn Minnaar, 3 March 2021
Is the gravitas of a wine determined by the producer or brand name on the label? And if so, how does it influence appreciation and/or understanding of the content? Another to-be-taken-serious marker might also be the look: the label, the packaging, the presentation. (Colleague Tim James pointed out the banality of such superficial posturing in the way of pompously large and heavy bottles here.)
Of course, the simple answer to the significance and sincerity of a specific wine is one that would refer to an established reputation, a home-run of regular high scores by the wise and wonderful best wine judges, and premium competitions.
In the opaque, shifty social media world of the now in which meaning and truth are falling stars, what is known as PR or marketing strategies can, with sufficient skill and money punch behind it, manipulate and determine the perception of the wine in the bottle.
If you wonder about what they do, whence their knowledge and expertise, and what their claim to fame is, check the ridiculously named human ‘occupation’ tagged as online ‘influencer’. Would that person’s Instagram post, picturing him/herself smiling above a clenched glass have more influence than a gloriously good name embedded with gravity on a good, superbly crafted, fine wine?
The craft of wine – in the sense that it is a challenging skill towards creating something unique and of importance – is seldom pondered when we check ratings or fork out perhaps too much for a bottle. (I’m on the side of those ridiculing local mega prices as indicators of worth.)
Perhaps even in those clinical judging gatherings or tasting moments, the art of wine is side-lined. Maybe conversing in the vague metaphors needed for discussing art is a move too far. And yet, there is a general sense among real wine lovers that certain wines exist in grace.
Which brings me back to the name on the label.
First, you have to understand the magnificence of the place and its history. If you’ve never taken the R320, it’s difficult to describe the grandness of the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. It’s not a valley so much as a series of undulations of green and earth brown amidst majestic meandering mountain rises, on good days blessed with piercing blue sky and raucous nimbus. It’s not a top-end region of wine, as much as a state of mind. Make that a well-funded creative mind.
Translating Hemel-en-Aarde (the hyphens are vital) into another language loses somewhat of its biblical dynamic and evangelical poetic push. But you can clearly see (sic) why it was oh so clever of JC Martin and Carolyn to select Creation as the name for their venture which started in 2002 with the meticulous identification of the terroir (JC’s passion, indeed a man for scrutinizing earth and heaven’s geographical gifts).
If they did not take inspiration directly from the scriptures, the word ‘creation’ certainly evokes the concept of challenge, of creativity, and individuality. So the name itself is loaded. You set your aims high, heavenly-high, a cynical observer might say, and put a higher price to the proof of the pudding. Creation wines passes that test when the latest releases of especially the chardonnays and pinot noirs are poured.
Since the first bottling in 2006 Creation wines has tracked the upwards curve of all the aims the Martins set themselves. The process is embedded in their philosophy that winemaking is like the never-ending dynamic that drives art-making as well.
No wonder they feel confident enough to call the top-end releases ‘The Art of Chardonnay’ and ‘The Art of Pinot Noir’. I think this needs to be understood not as a bragging label but as a marker of the wine’s specific: an accomplishment of site, winemaking skill, and a personal need to express the unique character.
It’s an invitation for us privileged sippers of the wines to engage, consider, enjoy and remember. For this, the gravitas of ‘Creation’ on the label bore full and convincing witness.
- Melvyn Minnaar has written about art and wine for various local and international publications over the years. The creativity that underpins these subjects is an enduring personal passion. He has served on a few “cultural committees”.
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