Whether it is right or wrong, most of us have bought a bottle of wine based on an eye-catching label. Consumer laziness? Moderate curiosity? A winery’s sound marketing investment? To an extent, they probably all factor in some way.
But it's not always just the aesthetics of the label/bottle that catches the eye. A wine’s name can often grab our attention as we wander through a shop looking for the right red, white, bubbly or otherwise.
A couple weeks back I got a press release-type email about two women launching a wine called Happy Bitch rosé, a slightly fizzy pink wine made in Hudson Valley, New York from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. If you want to see a remarkably pink website for a wine “designed by women for women,” check out their site. Good luck finding any info about the wine itself on there.
The email got me thinking about the trend of provocatively named wines — using risqué or eye-catching naughty words.
It seems to me to have started in France, of all places. You’d think a venture named Fat Bastard might come from a New World producer — Australia, California or the like — as they seem to be a bit more adventurous in the marketing department.
Many of us remember Mike Myers’ character of the same name from the Austin Powers movie franchise. However, according to the winery website, the name is actually in reference to the reaction of Thierry (of Fat Bastard producer Thierry and Guy) to trying an experimental wine being made. “Now zat iz what you call eh phet bast-ard,” Thierry is said to have remarked.
Since then, it seems there’s been an abundance of wineries willing to push the envelope when naming their products. Among them:
I saw this Chilean line of wines some years back in one of Winnipeg’s private wine stores, although I don’t think it’s still in our market. The label features a woman walking a dog. Clever?
A big Barossa red blend (predominately shiraz) from Tait. According to the Tait website, the wine came from an area called “Michelle’s Block” but the winemakers felt that name “conjures up visions of a soft and elegant sort of wine – and trust me mates, this little beauty is nothing like that.”
The name came from how the wine industry can sometimes “bust your balls,” and is explained such:
“Initially we did have reservations on the name, however, after a few hours of soul searching we decided to go for it! We wanted this wine to make a statement; we wanted to break the wine snob barrier; we wanted to make great tasting wine at an affordable price; wine that people could enjoy and have a laugh about.”
The Dirty Hoe:
There are a couple “Dirty Hoe” wines in the Manitoba market. Made by Woodvale Vintners in Australia, the label features a hoe being pulled through some dirt, a hat-tip to the farming aspect of wine making (although I’ve never seen an actual hoe at a winery).
This unfortunately named blend of four grapes is from Nova Scotia’s Jost Vineyards. And it’s not just the name — the label’s image furthers the, uh, metaphor.
According to Spectacle Group, the design company that created the label, it is “sophisticated with a cheeky sense of humour. The name, imagery and high production values make it a star on the shelf and a conversation piece for Jost's customers.” Cheeky, perhaps, but sophisticated? I disagree completely.
When I was in Tasmania last year, I visited a winery called Moorilla, headed by a young Canadian winemaker from North Bay named Conor van der Reest. Moorilla has two main lines of wines — Praxis, featuring cool graffiti-type labels, and Muse. This latter set of labels features naked people in fairly provocative poses in contrasts of light and shadow. To me, that line is sophisticated — not a genitalia reference with a somewhat suggestive graphic. (You want to have a look, don’t you? Here’s a link, but be warned… there’s nudity)
van der Reest noted Moorilla would probably never be able to sell the wines in most countries because of the packaging. It’s too bad — they’re delicious and, in my humble opinion, quite tastefully done. But he’s right — I mean, if the state of Alabama can ban the Hahn Cycles Gladiator for carrying a painting of a nude nymph with a bicycle on the label, they’d have a field day with Moorilla’s Muse line.
Wine is a commodity, and the whole goal of making wine is to sell it, so in that sense it’s hard to knock wineries for trying something that must be working, given the increasing number of wines with racy names.
I’m not sure why, but I can get into artistically rendered, but provocative art on a wine label, but cheekily named, “provocative” wines turn me off. I’m certainly no prude, and have been known to use off-colour language in my time, but to me, the latter seems like it’s a cheap ploy.
But I’m not the average wine consumer, and I’d be interested to hear what other people think of this trend. Are there other naughty wines out there I missed? Do people like the “playful” nature of provocatively named wines, or does it demean the wine (or, in the case of the “bitch” wines, women)?