The Idea

There is a synergy between wine and art. Both can delight the senses, feed the soul and inspire. As the artist creates a composition with canvas, paint and imagination, the brushstrokes of wine are bedrock, soil, climate and grapes.

Both art and wine engage our senses. As a wine writer I draw on borrowed sensations… wine that seems high wired or muscular, dense or ethereal, the texture of silk or taffeta. The memory of a fragrant rose garden or damp autumn woodland; Wine that is vivacious, translucent or beguiling. Imaginary memories… the taste of minerality, oyster shells, stone and chalk. Both art and wine stimulate our imagination.

When I set out to design the label, I sought to bring art and wine together, to capture the spirit of my project with a portrait of terroir. My idea was to commission a painting of a Burgundian village, but to use only a strip across the vines to represent a ‘glimpse’ of the terroir. An impression on the bottle to suggest the wine within.

I sorted though hundreds of images I had taken of villages and vineyards on the Côte d’Or and it was a shot of Monthelie, on a small hill with a skirt of vineyards spread beneath, which spoke most eloquently.  This image would be transformed into my portrait of terroir.

My label would be clearly contemporary with no illusion of history, linage. No crest, no tradition… no pretence. The look and feel declare I am new comer to Burgundy with just 15 years as a wine writer, assessing the vintages in Burgundy and the wine en-primeur. But… while I have no domaine of my own, I do have a passion for Burgundy and a desire to make wine which truly expresses a sense of place. It’s a strong sentiment and a bold ambition for an incomer and the colour needed to convey this.

I selected a vibrant red from the painting, red for the earth, to link the text with the portrait of terroir and to focus attention on the lieu dit or climat (Les Narvaux). It’s the specific parcel of vines that’s important.

Why the red letter in my name? Because people, including the winemaker, have a part to play in terroir. Without wine the potential of terroir is just that, potential. In wine this is realised and with time to mature in bottle, the character of the terroir is fully revealed.

The letter is also a small homage to winery where I have made my second vintage. Nico Rossignol uses single red letter.

Francis Boag

Commissioning the Painting

There was never any question in my mind whom I should ask to paint the picture. Francis Boag. I have a vibrant painting at home by Francis which conveys such a positive sense of optimism, touched with mystery. Terroir is mysterious. We might try, but we cannot fully understand the layering of geology, geography, climate – a millefeuille that is terroir.

Francis uses layering; A collage technique to add depth and intrigue to his composition. His style are an impression, an interpretation of reality, just as terroir is an expression of solid and abstract – from the limestone bedrock to the influence of politics, history and culture on the vineyards of Burgundy.

And so I asked Francis to create an impression of a Burgundian village surrounded by vineyards.

I felt certain Francis would capture my sense of excitement in my winemaking adventure. It’s a bold venture for me, dramatically expressed in the vivid palate he has used.

Francis Boag on the commission

In the spring of 2018 I received an email from Sarah, who intrigued me with her idea of commissioning a large painting to be a key part for her  ambitious plans to become a new wine maker in Burgundy.

Her plan was to use the painting as part of the overall branding but to take a slice through it to use across the label on the bottles of wine.

Sarah is a very clear communicator and her passion for the proposed wine making adventure shone through brightly, and I was delighted to come on board.

There was never any guarantee that we could even come close to achieving our goals but I am a great believer in Serendipity and felt a connection with Sarah that meant it was at least worth starting to work together to see just how far we could go.

I had already created many paintings inspired by frequent visits to France and I began by playing around with bits of existing paintings just to have a general idea of how Sarah’s idea of a narrow strip along the label would look.

This showed that the idea had some potential but the next stage was to prove the most challenging.

The concept of ‘terroir’ was new to me and I had no idea how to represent it in visual terms.

I could only find out if it was possible by trial and error, but that was likely to prove too time-consuming.

So rather than make a dozen or more different paintings I started a reasonably large preparatory study and using Dropbox sent images back and forward to Sarah and allowed her to make suggestions as to how best to represent the ‘terroir; which she understood so much better than I.

This was a completely new experience for me as normally, I have total control over how and what I paint.

It was certainly interesting to see how a ‘painting by committee’ would work.

I am happy to report that it doesn’t work at all, and the study went from good, to bad, to worse!

However, as a learning curve, the process was incredibly enlightening, and when I did start on the large finished painting, I had a much clearer concept of what was required.

In the finished work I wanted the Burgundian village and surrounding landscape of the Côte d’Or to be instantly recognisable, but to combine this with a representation of the vines which would evoke a much more emotional and personal response.

The complex layering process I use in my work, means that the painting doesn’t reveal itself at one look but new shapes and colours can be discovered every time you look at it.

I was trying to maintain the integrity and appearance of a ‘Boag’ painting while trying to match in visual terms, the complexity and beauty of the great wines of Burgundy.


Francis and I are planning some events together in Scotland linking art and wine. For more information, sign up and join the mailing list. On 10th May the Fraser Gallery in St Andrews are hosting an art and wine event where Francis and I shall be presenting paintings and wine. For an invitation, please contact The Fraser Gallery 01334 479647.