Books – covers, wine – labels. Is it fair to judge one by the other?

Traditional, modern, natural, experimental… we look to wine labels and packaging to give us cues about what lies beyond the cover. To tell us the wine’s story. It’s pretty safe to say that every winery is acutely aware of this; their label designs fighting for shelf appeal on a continually moving battlefield.

One Barossa winery particularly, charges down this field, wielding its weapons of humour, whimsy and visual story-telling with an assurance which is both compelling and inspiring.

First Drop Wines will never fit the mould of traditional, multi-generational Barossan. Nor do they aspire to present themselves as such. Owners and mates, Matt Gant and John Retsas, have created an expression of who they are; their multi-cultural backgrounds, their own stories away from the winery, as well of those ingrained in their wines from the soil in which they are grown. Their ethos? To create wines to drink, not just appreciate, wines with flavour, texture and a splash of funk.

Their wine packaging could be described as short graphic novels, such are the stories woven on the small real estate afforded by a bottle. From Grenache’s Spanish roots to 70s pop influences to 19th century art, to the minerals in single vineyard soils, the stories of the wines are all here, waiting to be discovered.

Liebfraumilk is perhaps the most traditional appearing wine in the First Drop range, and deliberately so. It’s designed to honour the story of Colonel William Light, his journey to Barossa and the region’s Silesian heritage.The label references the European Chateau and Crest style popular in Barossa’s labelling during the region’s early days. Designer Kieron Lomax revels in the power of hidden detail he weaves within each piece. Look closely at the Liebfraumilk and you’ll discover that trademark sense of humour; the cherubs in the Crest? They’re holding a stick of mettwurst, the regional food icon.

Upping the game, as team First Drop is wont to do, is the leather saddle bag a select number of Liebfraumilk Magnums are presented in. Drawn to the story that Colonel Light is so often pictured in renditions of history as the virile explorer travelling through the Barossa ranges to the Valley on horseback, as depicted in his famous statue on Montefiore Hill in Adelaide. The wine a celebration of 180 years since Light dubbed the area ‘Barrosa’ after a battle he fought in the Peninsular Wars of 1811 (the name incorrectly transcribed as Barossa on official paperwork, giving us today’s name).

So, the saddlebag as Magnum case idea was born. The carrier of essentials, the keeper of treasures, for a wine which celebrates exploration, is there anything more fitting? Created by local artisan, Carol Dadds (Sunshine Barossa), the bags are an art piece of themselves, and actually a package that does have a use once the wine is gone (and not just for collecting dust on a trophy shelf!)

You can saddle up at this year’s Barossa Wine Auction, which closes online this Sunday, 5 May at 7pm (AEST). The Liebfraumilk is sure to be hot property, get your piece of visual and vinous art over at