Look Behind The Scenes

For a small piece of paper pasted on a bottle there is an enormous amount of thought, effort and production co-ordination involved in designing a wine label.

Group Managing Director Rowena Curlewis explains. “Creating a great wine brand involves teamwork: the most important being between the designers and the clients or winemakers. That is why we try very hard to ensure the label is a good fit for the wine, and that it promises what the wine will deliver. It’s our job to get the consumer to buy the wine, but it’s the winemaker’s job to make them want to buy it again.

behindthescenes10Today Denomination works for over 135 wineries and has offices in Sydney and London. The business model that Rowena and her partner Margaret Nolan started with in 2002 has kept them in good stead: the business is experience-focused with a small, tightly-knit team. Rowena admits that being so specialised has its challenges, as it has taken years to build up a team who have the right skills. “We have been very selective from day one about people having the right fit both professionally and culturally. Now we have an amazing team who are not only great at what they do but are an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Rowena and Margaret are supported in Sydney by associate directors Clayton Andrews and Anita Burrough, who help co-ordinate and run projects with other team members. Described by the partners as the “one of the most efficient people on the planet,” Anita steers the team through some of the most complicated projects with the minimum of fuss. “She always brings her great sense of humour to a project” says Rowena. Design Director Clayton Andrews is responsible for all of the collateral material the company produces and is “a genius” at art direction. “Our clients just love him. Not only is he incredibly clever, he is lovely to work with.”

The company’s client list reads like a Who’s Who of the Australian wine industry: however most of their work comes “the best way – by referral”, a factor they attribute to the quality
of the work and the fact the partners are intensely hands-on.


Along with her managing director role, Rowena is also the account director on many projects. “Because of her years of accumulated knowledge she is invaluable to the business as a suit” says Margaret. “Row knows about nearly everything: from bottling capabilities to Bordeaux First Growth, she always amazes me with her knowledge as well her ability to simply make it happen.” Margaret, the creative director and principal wine designer, is “without doubt the most intense, compulsively-obsessed and brilliant creative that I’ve ever worked with” says Rowena. She agonises over the smallest details – and constantly pushes the designers to do the same. The attention to detail is actually what makes the work beautiful, and our clients
love it: even more importantly, consumers do too.”

Clients often ask where the inspiration for new ideas come from. “Designing wine labels is like designing book jackets. Every wine has its own story, and no two are alike. We always try and tell that story through the design.” The partners’ passion for what they do is obvious: for Rowena “it helps get you through the crazily busy patches when you love what you do.”