Cépage: The Visual Element

A lot about this company is to make great wine as accessible as possible, remove preconceptions and provide a thoroughly enjoyable experience through discovery…

In order to achieve this, we are drawing visual inspiration from a lot of great designers who are able to communicate very clearly using visual means. By this, we mean communicate learning techniques and pieces which can really enhance the user experience and understanding. This is important for wine, I believe, and is very central to the ethos at Cépage. Wine is an easily misunderstood part of life; it’s something which people are very quick to form opinions on without it having been explained to them; something where people can become quickly intimidated by others in positions of greater wine knowledge and finally; very quick to place themselves into purchasing patterns, whether it’s supermarket wine on offer, the same wine shop, even the same winery or at the top level, auctions and broking for fine wines etc.

The bottom line for us is to be accessible and provide knowledge in a realm where you cannot overestimate, nor underestimate people’s understanding. So, fundamentally, you have to find a medium of communication that captures both equally. Whilst this blog operates for seasoned wine lovers and people in the wine industry, the bottle shop aims at including everybody, at whatever price point they choose to purchase their wine at.

We are currently in the process of accessible tasting videos where people can follow a tasting guide with myself, as they would at a table in a restaurant. But this takes time to organise and execute. For the immediate time being, we have designed something to help people visualise the wine they might wish to purchase to inform a decision, as a little bit of fun and communicate that wine shouldn’t be something you are intimidated by. Colourful diagrams which explain, albeit in a slightly abstract form the journey of taste and flavour of that specific wine and the journey you encounter throughout the tasting process.

The inspiration for this was looking down the barrel of the wine glass [right]. The multitude of flavours as the wine swirls around your mouth, coupled with the complexity and the intensity of what was in the glass visually provided inspiration for the diagram.

To explain the diagram fully, I'm going to talk through a simple and complex example and the wines they correspond with. Let's take a relatively simple one first, the orange, almost petri-dish looking diagram. This diagram represents Cotes de la Molière Blanc Très Libre 2018, a natural sparkling chardonnay from Beaujolais. An interesting wine, yet simple enough for the diagram. Indeed, the orange reflects the general aura of the natural, slightly skin macerated wine.

The number of rings and circle the diagram features represents the complexity of the wine itself, as you will see with the second example. The mousse (how we winos refer to the texture of the bubbles in a wine) corresponds with the white dots around the diagram. Further, the tone of the wine, the light and freshness you will find, a delicate citrus flavour is depicted using the tones of certain colours. The more vibrant a flavour in a wine, the greater intensity of the colour!

The real challenge with the diagrams is to illustrate sensations you feel in your mouth when tasting, such as the wine's body, the tannin and acidity. Bubbles are relatively simple! The second wine was far more complex in character. Therefore, when we design an illustration for a complex wine, you have to move throughout the diagram from the outside (i.e. the initial flavour/sensation) to the core of the wine's flavour.

Already in comparison you see a lot more flavour and things to think about in this wine. If you want something more complex, then this wine is certainly for you. It's Domaine Terra Vecchia Clos Poggiale 2017 from the French island of Corsica. In comparison, it features two distinctive grapes, the native Niellucciu and relatively well known Syrah. The former provides a sweeter, confected element, imagine sweet plum and morello cherry (pick out the colours...), and the latter something more savoury with a sprinkle of black pepper (there's a very thin black ring in somewhere in the middle there). Colours are overlapped to demonstrate the multitude of flavours you will pick out as you taste wines with greater complexity. Relatively light in body (thinner lines) but still complex and intense (the number of rings and intensity of the colours) hopefully gives a good indication of what you're going to be tasting.

Indeed, Cépage really is about knowing exactly what is inside your wine. Forcing the theory behind soils, microclimates and regions is difficult when fundamentally, we just want to taste the wine and enjoy it. Only serious professionals and enthusiasts [like myself] will become bogged down with the importance of certain vintages and how specific Burgundian vineyards can contain such nuances. Thus, expressing flavour and sensation visually allows you to see what's inside the bottle before you purchase it, with no need for serious knowledge or context.

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