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Do naughty labels sell wines?

By Sherwin Lao | Jul. 30, 2013 at 08:01pm
Wine companies have been very creative and sometimes over-the-top branders, as evidenced by the abundance of strange names we encounter, from Fat Bastard, Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, Bitch, Oops, Frog’s Piss, Mad Housewife, Cardinal Zin, and even Gago (relevant to our Filipino language only) etc.. But can naughty wine brands and labels sell?  Apparently it can, at least in other countries. Below are some of the brands that may not come our way in terms of distribution and availability, given the more conservative Asian society we have as against our Western counterparts. Nevertheless, these are wines that actually sell not only on naughty branding, but also on the delivery of quality that wine drinkers look for.

• Menage a Trois—a very prominent French term that connotes threesome sex, is also one of the best selling single-product wine brands in the US. The wine is being produced by the large Trinchero Family Estates of Napa Valley under their wholly owned Folie a Deux winery. The name is actually a smart reference to the blend of three varietals, the Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This single red wine brand sells over 20 million bottles annually. In 2009, Menage a Trois was even named “Wine Brand of the Year’’ by reputable beverage publication house Market Watch. Menage a Trois retails at around US$12.00/bottle (around P550.00) in domestic U.S. market.

Dee Erickson, owner and winemaker of Doggy Style Wine


• Naughty Girl Rosé—this is a very popular South African blush sparkling wine which I saw dominating the retail shelves in Western Cape, and is probably strong all over South Africa. The Naughty Girl Sparkling Rose is made by Alvi’s Drift from the Worcester district. Alvi’s Drift was one of the several wineries I met in the Cape wine country on my first visit to South Africa just April this year. The Naughty Girl Rose has very focused target market of young female drinkers ranging from the legal drinking age of 18-year to 30-year olds. The label features the famous ‘‘Marilyn Monroe skirt-flying’’ silhouette in its beautifully crafted design. This sparkling wine is also made more feminine with sweeter style of higher residual sugar of 70gms per liter, and a lower alcohol of 7.5 percent. The dominant varietal (or cultivar as the South Africans rightfully call it) is Muscat d’Alexandrie, with some Colombard and Malbec. The brand has won for Alvi’s Drift a local Best Creative Branding award. Alvi’s Drift employs with much success, social media like Facebook to deliver the naughty but nice message. Naughty Girl Rose retails at a very affordable ZAR50.00/bottle (South African Rand equivalent to around P225.00) in Cape Town.

• Sexual Chocolate—another American wine brand, created by a wine company called SLO Down Wines. This one is taking naughty to another level, far more explicit than others. These testosterone-charged creators even made video clips that show threesomes and sadomasochistic sexual acts, but nothing on the wine itself except as a prop. And I copied verbatim from their website the description of this wine: ‘‘From the guys who brought your daughter home late comes the fourth release of Sexual Chocolate Wine, made in Napa. Sexual Chocolate is true California wine, blending old vine Zinfandel from Napa with Northern California Syrah and Petit Syrah. The Zinfandel presents a rich, warm feel that could be confused with biting into a chocolate covered cherry, while the Syrah adds a finish  that does not linger after the party is over. The Petit blended perfectly to display aromatics of magic and love. Sexual Chocolate pairs well with late night friends, and a second bottle of Sexual Chocolate.’’ This says it all! I do know of someone planning to import this wine into the Philippines. Sexual Chocolate Napa blended red wine retails at US$25.00 (around P1,100.00) from their website.

• Doggy Style—this is the latest wine brand from the Twodog Wine Company based in Utah. As covered by this column last week, I met owner and winemaker Dee Erickson, and he explained the concept behind the creation of Doggy Style brand. The inspiration obviously comes from the huge commercial success of the Menage a Trois wine. Dee loved the idea of something naughty, daring and unconventional, as embodied also by his company Twodog wines. Because they are already Twodog Wine, named after Dee’s two dogs Molly and Fancy, Doggy Style seems like a good fit for a brand extension. Dee takes pride in Twodog having a great supply chain concept that can ensure that Doggy Style will not be just a gimmick, but a real good value quality wine. Doggy Style will be a non-vintage wine so the proprietary blend can be altered for more consistency from vintage to vintage. Like Sexual Chocolate, Doggy Style has made a video clip too, but Dee said it is done sexy, naughty but artsy and not trashy. And here is the slogan, “Doggy Style Wine—You will like it in the end.’’ Doggy Style blended red and white wines are priced at parity with Menage a Trois, US$12.00/bottle in the U.S. market.

Vulgarity will probably catch attention, but to real wine lovers, bottom line remains that the wine has to deliver on its quality-for-price ratio. However, if these wine brands can become effective pick-up lines in bars and clubs, then sadly, quality can be thrown out of the window among the bibulous crowd.

For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, please e-mail me at protegeinc@yahoo.com. I am a proud member of the Federation Internationale des Journalists et Ecrivains du Vin et des Spiritueux or FIJEV since 2010. You can also follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/sherwinlao.
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