Some Young Punks

Published in frankie 31 (September/October 2009)

For a couple with a vineyard, two wine labels and two oenology PhDs between them, Col McBryde and Jen Gardner sure talk a lot about beer. The idea for their wine company, Some Young Punks, was conceived over a few brewskis with their business partner, Nic Bourke. So was the concept for the Label's pulp-fiction aesthetic. "You throw enough beers and the three of us in the mix and there's all kinds of talk," Col says.

The company is based at Col and Jen's vineyard in Clare, South Australia. It was here that they founded their first wine label, Adelina, which serves the higher end of the market. After finding themselves with "some cabernets that weren't going to make the grade", Nic and Col decided to start a side project rather than sell on the fruit. "We always thought it would stay fairly small and we'd make volumes that we could drink within a year if it all went pear-shaped. We'd be dead by now if that was the case," Col laughs.

Nic whipped up a manifesto that adorns the back of every bottle: "We blame the booze. The whiff and the swill did us in and all that was left to do was to make more ... This is Passion, a monster bigger than the three of us that leads us to soapbox, grandstand and sometimes pass out on the couch."

Nic's ephemera collection inspired the packaging for the Punks' first products, the Pulp Series. "We wanted something a little more tongue-in-cheek, something that wasn't quite as serious as what everyone in the wine industry makes out to be," Col explains. They bought a licence to use the cover art from "dime store novels" such as Naked on Roller Skates, Quickie! and Passion Has Red Lips. Most of the wines are named after the original book titles.

So is the process of matching a wine to a book cover kind of like pairing a wine with a meal? "It's very much like that. We were pretty selective about which novel covers we wanted to use. It really needs to be applicable. Naked on Roller Skates is an awesome example. We found this barbera that was really rocking - it was this lively, lush, bubbly, effervescent, very plush style of wine that really suited the label."

Then the Punks released their mataro shiraz, Drink'n'Stick. Melbourne illustrator Joe Whyte created the graphics, adapting an original pulp fiction image so that the featured femme fatale could be dressed and disrobed with plastic, peel-away stickers.

And in 2008, inspired by a giant squid caught off the coast of Japan, the Punks decided to create their own pulp narrative. They commissioned Israeli graphic artist Asaf Hanuka to create three designs for their T'n'T series: Monsters, Monsters Attack!, The Squid's Fist, and Double Love Trouble. The T'n'T is short for Trixie 'n' Tessa Love, two bikini-clad heroines who fight monsters and ninjas and make plans for world domination. This year the Punks will unveil another series of two wines illustrated by Asaf's twin brother, Tomer: Lust Collides and Fierce Allure.

But for all the cheekiness of their packaging, Some Young Punks want their punters to know there's a high-quality product in the bottle. 'A lot of people think that if you have a fun label, that means it's rubbish underneath," Jen says. "But you've got such a great opportunity to create a fantastic visual experience, so why wouldn't you? That whole boring, staid, traditionalist approach to labelling ... it just doesn't suit us."