They never seem to learn.
The censors, I mean. Those zealous guardians of our moral purity, those ever-vigilant protectors of our virtue always loose sight of the first rule of censorship, namely that when you ban a book, a film, a song or in this case, a wine label, you risk turning an obscure non-entity into an overnight sensation. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that having a tryout play Banned in Boston was to guarantee a smash hit once it reached New York.
The latest example of these sorts of ham-fisted attempts to protect the moral wellbeing of the public – this time that naive and vulnerable section of the public known as wine-drinkers – comes from the folks at the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board who, in the diligent exercise of their duties, on July 22nd ordered the recall of all bottles of Cycles Gladiator wines made by Hahn Family Wines of California. Their reasoning: the flame-haired nymph on the label contravened their regulations by depicting “a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner.”
They further confirmed their status as members in good standing of the philistine-of-the-month club by, according to Hahn’s President Bill Leigon, calling the Hahn Compliance department and advising them not to re-submit the label for approval because people in their office found it offensive.
So it seems we shouldn’t worry about the alcohol in the bottle, it’s the nymph on the label who is going to lead to our undoing.
To my mind this all appears more than a little ridiculous. You couldn’t find a more innocent, less lascivious looking nymph in the whole fantasy world of Art Nouveau, but then perhaps I am just depraved. However it is a bit strange that the names Fat Bastard and Bitch are acceptable while the profile of an artistic nymph from a 1890’s French advertising poster is not.
Of course, all this brouhaha has not hurt Hahn one little bit. Their website went from 100 hits a day to 8,000 and online sales have increased ten fold. In addition their phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from people asking where they can buy the wine, presumably so they too can be corrupted by feasting their heretofore innocent eyes on the immoral form on said nymph.
In consequence, Leigon is not worrying unduly about the loss from those 1,000 cases he is being forced to collect from Georgia’s retail shelves. “I expect to see a major positive affect on sales” he claims trying, not altogether successfully, to hide his glee.
As he admits, they couldn’t have bought this kind of exposure for a million dollars, and are even planning a major promotion playing off the recall by creating displays and ads proclaiming “Banned in ’Bama!”
So much for censorship. Now, what about the wine?
There are six different varietals under the label and my favorite is the Cycles Gladiator Pinot Grigio 2008 ($10).
Light, fresh and fruity it is suggestive – perhaps not the most appropriate word in the circumstances – of pineapples and lynches with a crisp green apple finish backed by hints of gravelly minerality. An eminently pleasing and super-quaffable everyday white, especially given it’s modest price and supposedly immodest packaging.