Wine and design – a story about synergy
At Neleman, telling stories and making – and drinking – wine is what we love to do. Preferably in combination with design: our wines tell their own story, strengthened by the label created by a talented artist. Even before our newest wine was bottled, Derrick went on a quest to find the artist that would be able to express the story of the extraordinary Riesling Viognier. Eventually he found the perfect artist for this project, Spanish illustrator and visual poet Sonia Alins, who wholeheartedly said yes.
We’re extremely proud of this collaboration between the very talented and much awarded artist and our wine brand. The label design of the flowery Riesling and peachy Viognier was named ‘The Swimmers III. THE GATHERING’, an “allegorical expression of happiness created through a choreography of women swimming and dancing”. Inspired by her creativity and inspiration, we asked Sonia to tell us a bit more about her origin, her work and – obviously – wine. Read on and let yourself be carried away by her artistic streams of thought.
Our wine house is in Valencia, you’re from Spain. Could you tell us a bit more about how growing up in Spain has defined you?
Being born and growing up in a certain country totally defines you. For me, growing up in Spain, with its huge cultural and artistic heritage, has influenced me, absolutely defined me, and I am proud of it. For example, in my case, I was born at the time when Picasso, Dalí and Miró were great world models in art. Their influence has been deeply rooted in Spanish society for decades. I acknowledge my early art was imbued with surrealism and visual expressiveness from these master artists. On the other hand, the fact of belonging to a specific area of Spain such as Catalonia, has definitely defined me as well. The proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees has made me love nature. Especially, I can feel the amazing influence of the Mediterranean Sea. I was born nearby and, so, many of my memories from my childhood and my youth are linked to it.
Did you inherit a taste for wine and all the other good things in life Spain has to offer? Are there specific things your region is famous for?
My region, Catalonia, is very famous for its ‘Mediterranean diet’, an icon that truly represents us. Mediterranean diet is a varied and balanced diet where bread, oil and wine are its essentials, also accompanied by vegetables, legumes, fruit, fish and meat. I have learned to appreciate the special flavours and smells of our diet. I really enjoy them and, above all, I love to share them with family and friends.
In the majority of your illustrations, women in water are the subject. What’s the story behind this?
I remember waking up one day and saying: “I know what to do and I know how to do it”. However, it didn’t actually happen out of the blue: I wouldn’t have had this idea if I had not received much input before. Suddenly, one day, all the input fitted together like the pieces of a puzzle.
So, the story behind my ‘Dones d’Aigua’ (Water Women) series started after falling in love with the aesthetic of Yves Klein’s blue sponges: I feel a hypnotic attraction to the spiritual depth that Klein’s artworks suggest to me every time I see them. In the same way, Joseph Cornell’s box-shaped collages were also fundamental and really inspiring to me: I feel totally connected to his dreamlike, surreal, vision of reality, and the poetry in his works: he is the reason why Dones d’aigua are three-dimensional collages. There are other influences: Miquel Barceló and his references to the sea, Jaume Plensa’s poetic sculptures, John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, Tamara de Lempicka or Goya, whose work I consider a recurring reference in my life.
On a different level, there is also another referent for my series that comes from the Catalan folklore: the ‘dones d’aigua’. They are mythological beings, a kind of water spirit, that live in waterfalls, lakes, and rivers and are linked to the life cycle, fertility and – especially related to my work – womanhood.
As we can read on your website, your illustrations always contain a poetic narrative of a surreal nature with which you address your feelings, desires, dreams and nightmares. Has illustrating worked for you as a catalyst to express yourself, from when you were young?
Yes, you are right. My artistic work always talks about me, it acts as a kind of personal diary in which I expose my mood or my reactions about what is happening around me and how it affects me, sometimes positively, others negatively.
How did the collaboration with Neleman come together? Could you walk us through the process?
It really was a very simple and friendly process. Derrick Neleman contacted me personally to propose to include one of my artworks as an image for one of his organic wines. As well as showing great interest and sensitivity towards my work (and the work of other artists, as one can see in his wines), I felt attracted by the interest in sustainability and by the environmental commitment of his company.
‘The Swimmers III. The Gathering’ is a both elegant and delicate, but at the same time powerful wine, with strong and exotic aromas from acacia wood and French oak roasted on volcanic stones. How did you define the label illustration for our wine?
My work shares some of the characteristics of the wine that it represents. For me, ‘delicate’ and ‘powerful’ are perfect adjectives to define how I represent women in my works: proportions that speak of powerful and strong women, but who, at the same time, express themselves with soft gestures and delicate movements. Furthermore, just as in a wine, with flavours and scents that fit together to create a new harmony, a unique personality, I also conceived the composition of this work as a vibrant, rhythmic and harmonious choreography.
Both wine and art allude to the senses (the first, linked to taste and smell; and the second one, to sight) and both also transcend that sensory level to create an imperishable state of well-being within us.
Water, women, freedom, nature – all subjects we see a lot in your work, as well as topics we cherish at Neleman. Could you tell us a little more about the things in life that inspire you?
Actually, everything that surrounds me inspires me. I believe that life constantly offers us experiences, often simple things, that we should not miss, that make us happy and that, as an artist, are very inspirational. In my case, love is my main inspiration: loving my own family, that I adore, and loving life in general. Of course, there are many more exciting things: dance, cinema, books, music, poetry or nature. I even find a very special inspiration in my dreams. Perhaps that is why my works have a certain dreamlike feel.
What did you like about Neleman to make you accept to link one of your great works to one of our wines?
I think it is a matter of sensitivity, no doubt. On the one hand, the necessary sensitivity to appreciate art and incorporate it as the image of the wines, and on the other, the sensitivity transmitted by basing the philosophy of the company on concepts such as respect for the environment and sustainability. I just loved the idea of linking my art with a project of those characteristics and quality. I said yes without hesitation.
Last but not least: how do you like the Swimmers III? Do the taste and smell collaborate with your label illustration?
I admit that I am not an expert in wine tasting, but I can say that both the aroma and flavour of ‘The Swimmers’ have enchanted me and I can recognise the particular notes that are part of its personality. For me, this Riesling Viognier 2019 and its label illustration combine in perfect harmony, positively stimulating our senses. In fact, my women seem to be dancing, inspired by the rhythm of the scents of ‘The Swimmers III’ wine.