Longview Piece Shiraz 2015: Street Art Meets Viniculture
by Ken Gargett
There has long been a connection between fine wine and art, though working out just how to link street art with a good bottle might have been a touch more difficult than most.
One assumes that more than a few of the cave and rock paintings around the world might have been influenced by whatever the local fermented concoction was. Vincent van Gogh’s only commercial success during his life was The Red Vineyards, while Picasso was not shy about including bottles in his various still-life paintings.
When it comes to the bottles themselves, Château Mouton Rothschild is undoubtedly the most famous proponent, having featured many of the world’s greatest artists on its labels.
There are numerous other examples – the Art Series wines of Leeuwin Estate from Margaret River in the southwest corner of Australia spring to mind. So, too, do the exquisite Japanese anemones on bottles of Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque, designed by Emile Gallé in 1902.
But street art (“artistic graffiti” to those of us past the first bloom of youth)?
Brothers Mark and Peter Saturno from Longview Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia are aficionados and they host an annual festival that culminates in a street art competition, attracting some of the world’s most famous exponents of this once subversive genre.
Each year, four artists from around the globe are selected/invited to compete (or, apparently, to “graff”). The winning work, effectively the people’s choice as it is voted on by those in attendance, then graces Longview’s finest Shiraz, The Piece, the winery’s flagship.
The trick is that the artists must complete their entries over a five-hour period in front of a live crowd at the winery.
The labels are described as “360°” as they encircle the bottle. Each bottle actually has four overlapping labels, needed to create the final striking impression. What is especially clever is that each bottle is packaged in its own can, which resembles the spray paint cans used by the artists.
The first Piece Shiraz was the 2008 and it has been released every year since then, with the exception of the very ordinary year of 2011. Production is around 2,400 bottles each vintage, with a local price of AUD$80. It is exported.
The current vintage is 2015 – the Longview Piece Shiraz 2015 – and the winner of the competition was the work entitled Venus, if You Will, by Lisa King, a local artist whose work has been described as “colorfully angelic yet seemingly dark.”
As much fun as the packaging and art are, what ultimately counts is what is in, not on, the bottle.
And it is a superb wine: inky black in color with lovely aromatics moving through cloves, black olives, dark chocolate, and while there is oak, it is so well integrated that it is almost transparent. There are notes of dark plums and a hint of Madagascar vanilla. This is an exuberant wine, plush, almost cuddly, but there is also serious concentration and no lack of structure.
There is a long, clean finish and it will age well, though it also drinks beautifully now.
The wine is made from select blocks of Shiraz, hand picked and bunch sorted prior to fermentation in small, open vats.
Longview uses 30 percent whole bunches in the ferment, after which it spends 18 months in a mix of 20 percent new oak and the rest one- and two-year-old French oak. The coopers are made by Sirugue and Damy.
In the early days of production the wine spent 24 months in oak, but this has been scaled back to the wine’s advantage.
Confirmation of its quality came very recently with the wine winning the Adelaide Hills Shiraz Trophy at the International Wine Challenge in London.
It is a wine in a curious but intriguing package, which is both fun and very serious.
Where else can you buy a top wine and an award-winning piece of art all for under $100?
For more information, please visit www.longviewvineyard.com.au/the-piece-project/reserve-shiraz/the-piece.
Also published on Medium.