Friday, 31 July 2009

Naked porn sex wine

See? Even I can do it. Stick a provocative title up - a whole bunch of people will have a moment of shock, be curious, come and have a look, get bored, and sod off again. Disappointing, isn't it?

But sex sells whether you like it or not, and the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (possibly one of the most condescending titles in the wine industry) doesn't like it. Well, to be exact, it didn't like the representation (note that word) of a naked woman and a bicycle on a wine label. So they banned it.

They found the image:

violated Alabama rules against displaying "a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner."

I've never seen anyone look sensuous with a bicycle. Francois Truffaut might disagree, but I'm right. It's not possible.

And I don't know what kind of immoral things they get up to with bicycles in Alabama, but at least they're protecting the public from it.

But are they? Now, the people behind the Cycles Gladiator wine (Hahn Family Wines - that's a wholesome name isn't it?) are marketing the wine as 'banned in 'Bama' to the rest of the US.

Hahn said he will never miss the 500 cases sold annually in Alabama. "There is going to be a significant increase in our sales," he predicted.

Remember the word 'representation'? What if a winery puts a piece of abstract expressionism on its label and the Alabama Control Board thinks it sees a nipple somewhere in there? Do they ban it? I'll leave you to ponder representation...

And, returning to the thread, the following conclusion only proves that psychologists master the art of talking the flaming obvious:

Rosanna Guardagno, a social psychologist at the University of Alabama, said a ban often increases people's interest in a product.

"The ABC Board, without realizing it, is going to boost their sales," she said.

So well done the Alabama Control Board, you've managed to protect your citizens, ensure that whatever it is your state gets up to with bicycles remains a mystery, but totally corrupt the rest of the nation.

Yes, my tone is childish. But so are you.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Spare a thought for the CRAV

Of late, we have been quick to denounce any of form violent action. Although I agree with Orwell that dictatorships (and democracies for that matter) can stand peaceful protest until the cows come home, people can get hurt. Although in most cases nowadays (ref. G8), it’s the police that do the hurting.

So we are quick to condemn the CRAV, or protesting French winemakers, for acting with violence in reaction to what they see as unfair prices. They want better prices for their wines so as not to be driven out of business. Even in Bordeaux, we have little sympathy with the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur producers who complain that barrel prices of €750 are barely enough for them to break even. They say they're not getting enough help.

It’s the law of the market, of the free market, we say, deal with it.

Read this (published today in New Zealand's National Business Review):

Some wine companies are exporting Marlborough sauvignon blanc in bulk to clear large wine stocks, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says.

"Continuing down this path may affect the longterm future of the industry," said MAF economists.

"This risks damaging the value of the premium Marlborough sauvignon blanc brand," said MAF director-general Murray Sherwin.’

Essentially, New Zealand is telling its own producers not to go for lower prices, trying to shore up value against the market trend.

Now, the NZ government can say what it likes – it doesn’t change the overall economic picture – but you have to wonder if the French government would be so active in trying to help the industry. Would it step in to stop supermarkets trying to cut prices? I have to be honest here, and say it wouldn’t do toss.

So why do we accept the NZ government’s attempt to try to keep value in its wines, why do we accept that so much 1st growth wine is dumped into their second wines, why do we accept that most of the world’s diamonds are dumped at sea, and at the same time insist in the face of the CRAV that they must accept the vagaries of the financial market?

(Picture from the Associated Press)

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Poor Jay Miller

I rarely feel sorry for people in the wine trade. But poor Jay Miller. It started with a slap-up dinner with wine importers, and questions of integrity followed. This was a few months ago. Now, with the latest saga involving Sierra Carche (he rated it highly, subsequent tastings haven’t matched up), it seems Robert Parker’s man on Spain can’t open his mouth without the collected hordes of his patron’s bulletin board jumping down his throat.

A few other bloggers also joined in to give him a good kicking and anyone recently in the vicinity of Miller will have felt his ears giving off the warmth of a patio heater. But most seemed to miss the most worrying point: that a wine tasted and rated by a critic could be different from one shipped and gobbled up by the masses.

The US importer of Sierra Carche went so far as to say it was an ‘apparent bait and switch’, and a representative for the winery admitted one lot of wine had been ‘erroneously shipped’ as Sierra Carche – but not the wine involved, it was stressed.

Enter Victor de la Serna, Spanish wines specialist and owner of Finca Sandoval who, amidst the mud-flinging at Miller/Parker/anyone in reach, descended on a silver cloud surrounded by cherubs to point out that the explanation offered by the winery/producers was ‘a total disgrace’. Quite.

All sorts of things often go wrong with wine shipments. Even I’ve opened a case of wine to find a Bordeaux Superieur masquerading as Cheval-Blanc.

But what are the issues in this case? A few points to consider*:

1 – The problem with expensive, rare, and sought-after wines, is that (a) there is little possibility of try-before-you-buy, (b) few people will have tasted it and (c) marketing mythology is preferred to business-like clarity. In short, the things that could avoid this kind of thing are precisely the things that companies behind these wines don’t want to provide. Thus they, and us, will be the victims of this again and again.

2 – Shipping/trucking/ don’t know where it’s been...

3 – Have you ever heard of this kind of thing happening the other way round – critic drinks a wine that is not as good as the rest of the batch? If so, please let me know.

*I will not use the term ‘takeaway’ other than to refer to kebabs, burgers, or any exceptionally unhealthy product that can be eaten off-premises. Those who use it in its marketing-style-speak form to denote memorable points should be lined up on a viaduct and prodded.

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Monday, 27 July 2009

The end is nigh...bring it on

The internet and the imminent destruction of the world have always gone together. Remember the Y2k bug, the databases with all your details on them, conspiracy theories, terrorists on facebook, the badger song?

Here’s another one: the Murphy-Goode job.

For some bloggers, the jumping ship of one of their kin (Hardy Wallace) from independent online blogger to, essentially, well-paid PR for a winery, could represent the end of clear-cut, independent wine writing via social media.

Steve Heimoff argued that it was normal for big fish to subsume little ones; that powerful wineries could take over the blogging turf; that we could be facing a deluge of marketing passing as wine writing.

In a similar vein, 1WineDude wrote: “What we may be witnessing is not so much the rise of social media as an independent voice, but the wine industry co-opting it for its own P.R. and marketing purposes.”

Worried? Moi? Non.

There is currently so much poor wine writing on the internet that giving a horde of wine marketing execs access to twitter can only be good for the consumer. For one, wine lovers who lap the kind of antediluvian dross that passes as wine writing will go on doing so - where it comes from will make little difference. Two: the more astute drinkers will become more circumspect about what they read online. And three: this will only make us wine writers improve our game.

I could finish on some placatory statement like: but all wine writing is good and the more there is, the better. But I won’t. Cause it’s bollox.

Bring on the marketing revolution. Please.

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