Nov 1, 201209:29 AM
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Wine Porn: Do Some Labels Cross the Line?
rleathers, stock.xchng, 2004
I was preparing a Happy Hour column about how and why wines and spirits interact with oak in the aging process, along with the ramifications of what oak brings to the party, when I was distracted by an ongoing discussion now unfolding in the wine world about questionable and suggestive names and graphics on labels.
Guess where my limited span of attention went.
At this point, if there are any young people out there reading this column, or if you are sensitive to “adult language,” you can stop now. Go no further. And if there are any young people in the room where you are reading this, please send them away.
Okay, that almost assures that this column will be widely read by all sorts of age groups.
To the topic at hand, there seems to be among government-oversight bodies a loosening of morality and standards when it comes to labeling. That’s hard to believe because these are the wonderful bureaucrats who brought you Banned in Boston, The Untouchables, pasties, swinging doors around video poker machines, and mattress tags that cannot be removed by the owner of the product under penalty of law.
In the case of wine and spirits bottle labels, all such adornment on the product has to be approved by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division. Their oversight includes all verbiage, all art, size of label and colors used. The Federal Government must approve everything about the packaging of wines and spirits before they can be placed on retailers’ shelves or restaurant wine lists.
After the Feds have given the green light to what a winery or distillery wants to display on its bottles, then each state can get into the act and also provide an approval, based on that fuzzy concept of “community standards,” thus inflicting another layer of bureaucracy onto a consumer product. Keep in mind that this consumer product, wines, spirits and beer, is the only one that has been banned, and then reinstated, in the Constitution of the United States.
And that multiple government approval process is why some of what we have seen lately on labels is so surprising, maybe even shocking.
The Feds said, “Fine,” but New Hampshire, a bastion of liberal thinking, whose state motto is “Live Free or Die,” has rejected the wine label for a product named If You See Kay.
Pretty harmless you think? Read the name out loud, without looking at the words and see if it spells something out for you. Oh yes, now you have it.
(Remember, I told you to send the kids out of the room.)
The wine noted above, and I would rather not call attention to it twice, is just the latest example of wine names and labels that are borderline good taste. Not in terms of palates, either.
Another line of wines is from a non-existent area, Sonoma Beach, and they are called Stu Pedasso Cellars. Again, read the name out loud and fast. There is a zinfandel, along with a white wine credited to Stu’s wife, Rae-Jean Beach.
Then there is a wine from Australia called “Bitch,” as well as another line-up of wines from Chile named “Royal Bitch,” and still another wine group from that same country proudly displaying the moniker “Sassy Bitch.” The Chileans seem to have a grasp of at least one English word.
Can’t forget the guys, and a line of wines from Italy and France named “Fat Bastard.”
Available everywhere in this market is “Ménage à trois;” often poured at charity events for good causes and, I assume, served to upright, not uptight, citizens.
We have had from time to time wines with foreign expressions (see previous paragraph) that come dangerously close to English smut phrases. “Pisse-Dru” is the latest example. What the phrase ça pisse dru means to a winemaker is that the grapes are in good order and will make fine wine. What the label says in English to the consumer is probably something else.
Chateau d’Arse is a bit more problematic, and probably funnier to a Brit than an American. The wine is from the Fitou region in the Languedoc, and is 45% carignan, 35% grenache and 20% syrah. There are number of chateaux in France close to this spelling but none of them are involved in this wine, nor do they spell their names like this.
Sometimes the name is not the issue, but it’s the graphic art. Our neighbors over in Alabama banned the label for Cycles Gladiator, which depicted a woman in full Lady Godiva regalia, namely no clothes at all, with long, flowing hair, attempting to mount a bicycle rolling away from her. “Pornographic” and “Not Acceptable” was the decision of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
The Cycles Gladiator line-up of wines, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, are available all over Louisiana. Evidently pornography is a matter of geography.
There’s a Playboy® series of wines featuring cover art from that popular publication. The women depicted on the wine’s labels are beautiful, suggestive, and probably air-brushed but who cares? Can’t imagine the bureaucrats in Montgomery being very happy over these either.
And there is the trend-hopping gang over at TXT cellars, who only disclose that they are located in Secaucus, New Jersey and are importing wines and spirits from all over the world, which certainly narrows down the location of the source.
The wines are LOL!!! Riesling, OMG!!! Chardonnay, LMAO!!! Pinot Grigio, WTF!!! Pinot Noir, GR8!!! Cabernet Sauvignon, and CYA!!! Shiraz. Actually pretty tame by wine-porn standards.
At this point, I’m speechless. Does anyone out there have a good ending for this column? I appreciate the help.