Wine, art and pro cycling - three of Ride Velo's favourite things have joined forces with the collaboration of the Tour de France, Bicicleta wines and artist Eliza Southwood. Actually this is the third year that Cono Sur's Bicicleta wines have been official partners of the Tour, but the first time that Eliza Southwood has been involved; as designer of the limited edition bottle labels. Ride Velo managed to wangle an invite to the launch party where there was much to celebrate!
For the first time, Chilean wine makers Cono Sur have produced a limited edition label to celebrate their sponsorship of cycling's premiere race, the Tour de France. They asked talented Eliza Southwood to come up with the design and she produced two! Cono Sur said they were both so good it was almost impossible to choose between them, but in the end they plumped for the print which features a typical French landscape with lots of scenic cycling images in rich, wine coloured hues.
At the launch event in central London, Eliza was on hand, not just to talk about her work, or even to taste the fruits of Cono Sur's labours, but to give a 'pop up' guided art lesson to her fans. We were all provided with our own blank canvasses, four paint colours and some brushes (along with instructions not to accidentally drink the dirty water) then Eliza took to the floor to give us a special insight into her craft.
After the guided tasting of four Cono Sur bestsellers from wine maker Adolfo Hurtado, it was pretty hard keeping up with Eliza as she deftly sketched in mountains, sky and sunflowers. At one point, dirty paintbrush water was swallowed, giving a nasty contrast to the apricot, orange and peach tasting Viognier in my wine glass. But Eliza's rapid instructions to create burgundy, rose and golden chardonnay tones from primary coloured acrylic paints made us thirsty for more.
It is slightly unusual that a Chilean wine producer should sponsor the Tour, but any kind of alcohol advertising for sporting events is banned in France. That's how Cono Sur came on board in 2014 first promoting the Grand Depart in Yorkshire. Now the company have six wines in their limited edition range, including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and their best-selling Pinor Noir and Viognier - sold through Tesco and Asda from just £6 a bottle.
We asked Dan Featherstone, head of UK marketing for Cono Sur in the UK why the label is named 'bicicleta' (Spanish for bicycle of course!) "Our bicycle symbolises our strong and passionate commitment to the environment when making top quality wines. It's the way our workers move around the vineyards everyday, in order to protect the land that they work on. Sometimes returning to bicycle basics is all we need." he said.
Amongst the guests was the ASO's (Amaury Sport Organisation) Partnership Manager, Bastien Delmaille who told Robbie that he thought the Yorkshire Grand Depart was the best there had ever been. He said would love to see another Grand Depart in the UK as there's such enthusiasm for the sport on this side of the channel. Surprisingly, French wine manufacturers are not allowed to advertise in their own race - which Bastien thinks is a shame - but their loss is our gain as Cono Sur is so popular in the UK with it's Viognier and blackberry accented Pinor Noir outselling every other vineyard.
When the painting was drying off, we were allowed to sample a few more of Cono Sur's delights including their range of fine wines - saving the best 'til last? Eliza relaxed with a glass of 'ultra premium 20 barrels' and husband Liam with Ocio. We tried both velvety smooth reds which ooze quality and class - sold by the country's most expensive wine merchant in Knightsbridge apparently. After all that we were glad that we'd taken the tube to the event and not attempted to ride home! Salud, salut and cheers, Cono Sur - we're all connoisseurs now.