Port2Port chats to Orpheus

The Answer is in the Numbers

In a rare interview from the Underworld, Port2Port meets Orpheus to discuss the origins of Orpheus & the Raven, and their approach to wine, music & art. By Dalene Fourie.

How did the collaboration between you (Etienne) and Brenden start? What attracted you to each other and where were you when you decided to start this collaboration? 

Brenden and I became friends through a label development for another client. We started talking about directing our passion to develop a wine brand that is not driven by sales volumes, market share or consumer insight, but by a pure expression of the love for fine wine and art. When we hit on a good idea, we will start “riffing” off each other the way it happens in a great rock & roll band – and those are usually the ideas that are developed to fruition.

How do you see the range evolving? Be it new varietals, new vineyards, large format bottles?

We do have more ideas than resources to develop them! But the idea of taking Vinoneers trans-continental is of great interest to us…

 

Where do your grapes come from and why?

With our #42 Cape Blend for example – we source Pinotage from Durbanville, Pinot noir from Walker Bay and Cinsault from Bottellary Hills. These are from producers who have a good track record for delivering high quality fruit, and where the flavour and texture of the wines correspond with our vision of elegance and sophistication.

 

Tell us about the new Pinotage - where does it come from? Why did you think it relevant as part of your range and what do you think its prospects are?

So the answer, as always, are in the numbers…! It is a seven-site Pinotage – the wine was sourced from seven of my wishlist producers. We produced 450 liters ( 1 new and 1 second fill Vicard barrel ) from each winegrower. It stands at the pinnacle of our range, due to its complexity and unique approach to showcasing Pinotage. Only 600 bottles will be available on the Port to Port platform.

 

Tell us a bit about your packaging, I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it given the intricacy of it - what does each label depict and where do you get your eclectic inspiration from? 

One of the great advantages of having a designer as a business partner, is the seamless integration of winemaking and design concept. All credit for the designs and design language goes to Brenden – he integrates inspiration from Albrecht Durer with his own vision to create artwork which is a complete assault on the senses. We use our labels to tell the story of our personal journeys, with each wine containing a little nuggets of wisdom from Orpheus and Raven’s conversations!

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Who are the Vinoneers? 

Etienne Louw (winemaker) and Brenden Schwartz (label designer).

 

Your brand seems steeped in myth and literature, what does the name ‘Vinoneers’ MEAN? 

I am a chemical engineer in my previous life! The name references the art of wine, combined with the finely tuned processes required to develop a brand from concept to inception.

 

Where does Orpheus and the Raven come from? 

The labels are inspired by the Greek play Orpheus in the Underworld. At its core, the play encourages the audience to never look back. Orpheus & the Raven was developed as alter-egos for the Vinoneers. I am a classically trained musician, represented by Orpheus with his lyre. Brenden’s alter-ego derives from his family crest which depicts a raven. birds which are highly creative, and encourage Orpheus to look ahead.

What wines did you make in your first vintage and why? 

In 2015, we made a 42 year old bush vine Chenin blanc, which was from a jewel of a block in Durbanville nobody was paying any attention to. We wanted to develop a wine and branding unencumbered by corporate constraints or a strict client brief.

 

What are you preferred varietals and why? 

I am unabashedly a Pinotage fan. Top quality Pinotage is a unique selling point from South Africa and the story behind Pinotage is so unique and rich, that we can weave it into our mythical brand-DNA.

We wanted to develop a wine and brand unencumbered by corporate constraints or a strict client brief.