The Subtle Art of Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously

In 2016 Mark Manson released an unconventional self-help guide that went on to sell more than 10 million copies. With a giant profanity on the cover, the book provided an honest reality check to a society spoiled by its desire for frequent recognition. We swipe, we like, we comment, we forget.

Today we have an epidemic – pathogens of over sharers, self proclaimed influencers and people who borrow their father’s Mercedes keys to curate a photo captioned #lifeiswhatyoumakeit. Disbelief of the latter? In Russia, there is a photography studio, inventively called ‘Private Jet Studio’, that rents out grounded private jets to aspiring influencers. For 11,000 Ruble or $182 AUD you too can capitalize on its two-hour photoshoot. And for a nominal fee they’ll throw in Champagne and petit fours. 

It’s a whole lot of effort to influence what other people think. To actively conjure the green eyed monster. It is rather sadistic, don’t you think? At what point did we begin taking ourselves so seriously…  

Manson draws a simple conclusion – “there are only so many things we can give a [hoot] about, so we need to figure out which ones really matter”. Fortunately, life is filled with inexorable curve balls to put things into perspective, like: 

– Spilling tea on your laptop before a major deadline, with the irony of it being peppermint and its claimed stress reducing properties.

– Being 29 years of age and forced to ‘let it mellow’ thanks to a fortuitous, cracked sewage main during renovations. 

The art of not taking yourself too seriously starts with laughter because if you don’t laugh… you cry. Truth be told, my pride may have wept a tear on the latter.

So, when a set of wines landed on my desk from a brand that’s mission statement was to “take our vineyards and our wine, but not ourselves, too seriously” there was a refreshing restoration in humanity.

Zonte’s Footsteps was founded by a group of self-proclaimed ‘know-it-all’ industry mates in 1999 with the pursuit to bottle wines with personality and expression. This is, as they say, why they gave them names and a face of their own. 

There is no Bin, Estate nor Premium Cuvée in sight, instead a display of creativity that verges on loony. Double entendres, personification and nostalgic references all alluding to the wine in bottle. It’s clever marketing. And in an industry confined by convention, when the byproduct is approachability and authenticity, not taking yourself too seriously soon becomes a competitive advantage. So, in a strategic sense why not name a wine after Charlie Bucket’s antagonist?

ZF Violet Beauregard label

For those unacquainted with Roald Dahl’s Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Violet Beauregard is the third recipient of the coveted Golden Ticket. A world champion gum-chewer with unnerving self-assurance, Violet’s demise comes in the shape of a Blueberry Pie flavoured ‘gobstopper’. Warned by Willy Wonka of its experimental phase, Violet disregards the advice and morphs into a giant blueberry. Eliminated, Violet is rolled out to the ‘Juicing Room’ by a team of Oompa Loompas to squeeze the juice from her. An entertaining parallel can be drawn to winemaking, although I do not think the Zonte’s team delved into such analogical depths. They did however draw semblance to Malbec’s round, plump, violet hued berries reminiscent of blueberries. The reference extends to the varietal’s tell-tale violet rim, floral-violet perfume and its ‘full bodied’ blueberry profile. But it is the whimsical consumption guide for me, ‘best consumed without Veruca Salt or Augustus Gloop’. Bravo. 

ZF Chocolate Factory Label

It may come as no surprise then that the Zonte’s range includes a Chocolate Factory Shiraz. No golden ticket required, the fruit is sourced from an array of McLaren Vale sub-regions with the purpose to make a ‘truly regional blend’. Just like its counterpart Beauregard, the name serves more than just nostalgia. Despite being grown in almost every wine region of Australia; Shiraz presents unique expressions from each. McLaren Vale Shiraz for example is typically decadent with blue fruits and hints of chocolate. Did you see what Zonte’s did there? I predict that if the fruit was sourced from Barossa Valley or Heathcote the factory would cease chocolate production. It is a sweet reference made even sweeter by a shamefully indulgent pun: “Willy, Willy Good”. 

Lady Marmalade Vermentino

There is part of me that wishes the team continued with the entire character set from Roald Dahl’s novel – an Augustus Gloop Grenache or Veruca Salt Vermentino. And open cause for debate on the face of a Willy Wonka Wine – Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp? I digress. The Vermentino took a more provocative route “struttin’ her stuff on the street”. I guess from there the team presumed the consumer would say “hello” and “wanna give it a go”. As a millennial, Lady Marmalade has reference to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack featuring Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Lil’ Kim and P!nk – not the original disco track intended for a group called the Eleventh Hour. Described as ‘sexy, sassy and somewhat racy’, Zonte’s challenges the preconceived neutral opinion of this varietal. Instead replaced by a crisp, zingy finish that I predict can only be explained by the winemakers as some ‘gitchie, gitchie, ya-ya’ acidity. 

ZF Excalibur label

From garters to an age of chastity belts, Zonte’s Footsteps Sauvignon Blanc takes inspiration from the 6th century mythical sword of King Arthur. As legend goes, he who draws Excalibur from the stone, in which it has been magically fixed, is the true King of England. In Zonte’s modern-day rendition Excalibur is drawn from the fridge, and whilst there is no guarantee of sovereignty, I know some who would consider themselves more adept than current leaders after a bottle. Call it magic (or alcohol). 

ZF Splitting Hares label

Special mention to:

  • A solo performing Grenache called Love Symbol that promises monogamous satisfaction away from GSM’s polyamory.
  • A double entendre Splitting Hares Tempranillo Grenache inspired by the search for varietal balance of the two. I speculate hares garbed in polka dot bows is more appealing than a label of split ends.  
  • And a Baron Von Nemesis Barossa Valley Shiraz that I am still deciphering the meaning of. 

With the exception of Violet Beauregard and the Chocolate Factory, there is no clear theme between the wines other than their unique identities. In the bottle, however, the brand is homogenous – plush, juicy, approachable with a layer of intrigue. You must commend a brand where their winemaking and marketing teams are simpatico. Others should follow Zonte’s Footsteps. 



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