Drinks, food

A visual and drinkable delight

Sean Calitz


It’s customary to hear of good wine taking years to produce; what’s far less commonplace is for this sort of stretch of time to go into crafting the bottles that hold it too. But so it was and continues to be at private Franschhoek farm Normandie Est. 1693: every measure of passion, pinch of craftsmanship and drop of detail that is poured into making the wine within is also devoted to making the slim vessels that contain it.

‘We’ve taken our commitment to creating world-class vintages and extended it to every facet around the wine, so that the design also evokes a sense of pleasure,’ explains Jacques Burger, Marketing Partner at the estate.

Since discovering the property – one of the original French Huguenot farms – nine years ago, acclaimed locally born designer Mark Eisen has worked closely alongside winemaker Johan Viljoen to bring his appreciation for art and beauty to life on the outside of the wine’s glass case. It’s evident in Normandie’s premium Eisen & Viljoen Bordeaux-style red blend – its hand-pressed label serves as a metaphor for the intricate winemaking process and the two luxuriously tactile layers of wax (one plum and the other Burgundy) that glide from the bottle’s head down its side speak of a fusion of flavours and talents. It’s visible in the exclusive Karen., a dry, mature Rosé whose elegant, textured label is as sophisticated and pure in aesthetics as the wine is on the palate. And now, it’s also the case with the recently launched easy-drinking Clarington range.

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Eight years in the making, this new collection comprises six varietals – a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Rosé – encased in bottles coated in glossy organic ink on either their top or bottom half in a colour that corresponds with the respective wine’s hue. This colour-blocking technique – a globally patented design that’s the result of an elaborate five-part process – gives the range a vivid, playful edge, turning the casing into functional art that has collector appeal in its own right.

‘Wine is central to social occasions, so we want the bottles to make a statement in these contexts too,’ says Jacques, adding, ‘They capture the joy of good design, which has become so integral to living well.’

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None of it is design for design’s sake though. It all starts with and extends from the product within, which is a work of art itself. With decades of international experience and a reputation as one of South Africa’s finest viticulturists, Johan sculpts the wine from its grape beginnings with the precision and intuition of a great master. So while the attire of Normandie’s wines sets the bar high, what’s inside delights and surprises in equal measure. In this case, you absolutely can judge the book by its cover. claringtonwines.com