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Unique history and design are conversation starters for wine drinkers : European wineries design unique labels or make wine with grapes from historic vines.

Mar 29,2017
Wine, left, made with old vines found at Chateau de la Vieille Chapelle located in Bordeaux, France. [FREDERIC MALLIER]
Alejandro Van Lieshout, right, an export manager of Spanish winery Casa Rojo, introduces wine with fun labels. [CAVE DE VIN, LEE SUN-MIN]
Wines from Bodegas Veldemar are maturing in oaks. The winery located in Spain makes tasty yet affordable wines. [MERVIN]
Choosing a wine for a special occasion is never an easy task, especially when you want to impress guests at the dining table. To help drinkers tell fun stories over lunch and dinner, some European wineries design unique labels or make wines with grapes from historic vines.

Well-designed labels can enhance the overall experience of drinking wine. Casa Rojo, a relatively new Spanish winery that was introduced in 2014, tries to stand out among the millions of wines on the market with its unique labels. Offer the winery’s white wine made with a grape variety called verdejo in Rueda, Spain, to bring out some laughs, as the large man tightly stuck in an oak barrel changes. Depending on how ripe the grapes are, the man’s size changes each year.

The winery’s other white wine might keep the attention of diners well after the bottle is emptied as the label changes depending on the temperature. To indicate the right temperature to consume the wine, the winery has made hidden bubbles coming from the mouth of a fish skeleton pictured on the label. The bubbles only appear when the bottle is cool enough to be served. After spending some time on the table outside of an ice bucket, the bubbles will disappear.

The winery also takes a fun approach to its red wine labels as well, to encourage customers to purchase multiple wines from the same winery. Drinkers will enjoy talking about how the size of the mustache of the man on the Macho Man’s label and the stride of the man on a wine named Invisible Man changes each year.

The labels are the results of a collaboration with Eduardo del Fraile, who used to contribute his artistic talents to design labels for Coca Cola and Zara. The winery wanted to make more creative and fun labels for wine drinkers of all levels of background, said Alejandro Van Lieshout, the export manager of the winery during his visit to Korea earlier this month. A local importer Cave de Vin also added that these labels appeal to a younger generation of wine drinkers.

If you are more into impressing others with your knowledge of wine and each bottle’s history or your guests consider themselves avid wine drinkers, have them taste wine from a small winery in France. Chateau de la Vieille Chapelle located in Bordeaux, one of the globally known wine-making regions, will help you appear more knowledgeable, as it grows grapes from vines that don’t exist anywhere else. France was hit by a bug called phylloxera back in the 1860s which killed most of the popular grape vines at the time. Winemakers reformatted their vineyards with vines grafted with American rootstock which has a resistance against the particular insect. Differing from the grape varieties popular in Bordeaux currently such as merlot or cabernet sauvignon, this particular winery has discovered that it has an ancient variety called bouchales, whose vines survived the damage done by the insect. The discovery came after Frederic Mallier, the current owner of the winery purchased the vineyard and started to access his fields.

The wine, with its rich history, could bring an upbeat energy to a dining table full of wine fanatics. Among the many bottles the winery makes, one bottle named Amis and Associes says “C’est Bon Le Vin” in different colors for a more festive mood, according to Mallier who was in Seoul to promote his wine. “C’est Bon Le Vin” roughly translates “This wine, it’s good” as if one is showing admiration for the taste.

For those who want to make a strong impression on the palate of new wine drinkers, go to Spain and look for wines made by Bodegas Valdemar. Some may believe that Spanish wines can be too strong, but the wines from this particular winery in Rioja, Spain, are very fruit-forward while remaining not too heavy on the mouth.

Six out of seven wines the winery sells in Korea are under 50,000 won ($44.92), with most expensive bottle being only 56,000 won. The best selling bottle, Finca del Marquesado Crizana, is 26,000 won - falling under the 30,000 won price mark, which is often considered the threshold for many individual wine buyers, according to the local importer Mervin.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]