Nov 1, 201209:29 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

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.

 

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Reader Comments:
Nov 1, 2012 12:37 pm
 Posted by  WineIsTruth

Interestingly, if you see kay is the only one of these that has an historical reference, it comes from James Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses...which itself created controversy at first, but now considered a classic.

Nov 1, 2012 12:59 pm
 Posted by  jbell

My favorite label, from Toad Hollow....Amplexus. How this got by the censors is amazing, since amplexus is the term used to describe frog copulation. Very appropriate that Toad Hollow would come up with this name.

Nov 1, 2012 03:15 pm
 Posted by  Durell1967

You should check out Naked Winery! With names like Penetration Cabernet, Foreplay Chardonnay, Cougar Semi Sparkling White, and Dominatrix Pinot Noir how can you go wrong!

http://www.nakedwinery.com/

Nov 1, 2012 03:43 pm
 Posted by  tim

Interestingly for you Sideways fans, the scene where Miles drinks from the dump bucket after learning his novel is going nowhere, was shot at Fess Parker winery. In the movie that winery was noted as Frass Canyon. Frass is the zoological term for the anus of a racoon. And the connection is the coonskin hat that Davy Crockett (FessParker) wore in the movies and on TV.

Nov 5, 2012 04:00 pm
 Posted by  LindsayC77

I ran into If You See Kay last night for the first time here in Wisconsin -- just saw the bottle, didn't try it. I'm curious if it's good, but honestly the shticky label prejudices me otherwise.

The texting labels give me a migraine. At 31, I'm apparently already too old.

Nov 5, 2012 04:11 pm
 Posted by  quantockabbey

I know a Chateauneuf producer who used to (still does for all I know) make a wine called Cuvee Orgasme with appropriate (inappropriate!) label. He used to sell it at the Channel ports to the arriving Brits on a booze cruise to France.

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

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In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go-to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and Happy Hour blogger for myneworleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, winetalknola.com; all in addition to his weekly hosting duties on "The Wine Show," a radio program entering its second decade of broadcasting in New Orleans. "The Wine Show with Tim McNally," is on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every Friday at 5 p.m.

Over the years, Tim has proved to be a master interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

Tim’s love of wine came about many years ago from his wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

The couple was instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major, well-regarded festival of its type both nationally and internationally. Tim and Brenda both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now more than 20 years old.

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, FL Wine Festival Competition, U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

You can reach Tim by email at timideas@bellsouth.net.

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