Thursday 22 August 2019

A wine for "wine lovers"

The whole notion of “wine lovers” is an odd one. I don’t particularly like the idea of belonging to some chummy little group of people with an arcane and specialist “love”. It sounds like being a follower of an endangered pursuit, or a lesser-known pop group. And perhaps there are similarities; I imagine “wine lovers” trading arcane information about, say, cork varieties, just like fan club members trading arcane information about Ringo’s breakfast.

But I’m particularly suspicious about the use of the term “lover” in this context; it’s similar to that lazy trope which now requires any follower of a football club to have that club described in interviews as their “beloved” team. I’m a wine drinker, definitely; but I’m not sure that enjoyment, indulgence and appreciation add up to love. “Lover” is one of those words I don’t wish to see appended to “wine”, like “wine gadget”, “ wine buff” or “wine finished”.

Still, the term “wine lover” seems to have gained traction, perhaps understandably with a generation who regularly abuse the related term “passion”. (“I have a passion for accountancy” – no, you don’t.) And so it was inevitable, I suppose, given the prevalence of the term, that someone would actually label a “wine lovers” wine. The only surprise is the way in which they’ve done it.

What drew me to this "wine lovers" wine, leering at me from the bottom shelf, was the distance between the image on the label, and that to which I aspire. This character is described by the Spanish winemakers as “Macho Ibérico”. His only redeeming characteristic, it seems to me, is his resemblance to the great Hunter S Thompson. And the great Hunter S Thompson would have said that this was the sort of creep for whom Mace was too good.

I mean, look at this guy, with his smarmy grin and his LA cop sunglasses and his Simon Cowell chest rug and Hamlet cigar combover. Is that what a wine lover is supposed to look like?

Please, tell me it ain’t so, or I might swallow my toothpick. I am relieved to say that, if the police were using this as an Indentikit picture, I don’t think I would be troubled by questioning. The thing which is troubling me is how anyone might have thought this an image of a typical wine lover.

I have since discovered that there are a further two characters in this series. There is a woman, on the white wine in both senses. She’s described in Spanish as a choni, a stereotype notorious for excessive jewellery and makeup, very revealing clothing and being ignorant, loud and obnoxious. Not at all like Essex girls.

And there is a “hunk” with a tattoo escaping above his neckline, and a disturbing semi-wink, making the internationally-recognised gesture for “Call me!”. A stud in his ear as well as his dreams.

Now obviously there have been satirical images of what might have been called “wine lovers” before. From the quaffers of Gillray, through the men and women brilliantly depicted by Ronald Searle, to the cliché of the bloated, upper-class wine drinker, red of nose and trouser.

But those were not actually being used to sell wine. And I am genuinely mystified as to the message these horrible label images are meant to convey to a potential buyer. Perhaps there is something amiss with my social inclusivity, but surely these are all utterly hideous people? I wouldn’t wish to see any of them around my dining table – so why would I want to see them upon it?

Are they supposed to be representative “wine lovers”? In which case I am further encouraged to resign from the category. Or is there some kind of irony here, that I’m meant to drink the wine despite, rather than because of, the images on the labels? Which leads us down a road of labelling wine with the kind of medical pictures now used on cigarette packets.

There’s only one thing to be said in favour of this particular label. I did taste this blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot (go on, chuck the lot in, why don’t you?)  And I can tell you that the character on the label, in a very real sense, appears to be an accurate reflection of the oily, industrial wine itself.

Pretty repellent.


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