"Arse wine" and other branding victories...

By Musty Bunches | 19 April 2002

My word but the drinks world has been a busy place this last month, says Musty, fanning herself hysterically like a character from a Tennessee Williams play. As spring arrives in the northern hemisphere and seasonal Easter missiles rain down on Bethlehem, not one, but two giant wine brands have chosen to rebrand themselves. Hold the front page! Truly, the marketing sap is running again.

Black Tower and Mateus Rose, two mega-brands from the 1970s, have each got fancy new bottles and labels, with bright shiny press releases to back them up. No doubting the sort of big bucks that have been spent on these rebranding exercises, though Musty has to say that the whole episode would be more impressive were it not for the fact that the contents of each bottle remain unchanged. After all, as Musty's dear departed father used to say, "you can wrap a pig in a fur coat but he'll still taste of bacon."

Mind you, at least those two wines, whatever their faults, have serviceable brand names. Musty remembers the story of an unsuspecting Spanish winery a few years ago which wanted to make a young, fruity modern-style red wine to go with their more traditional aged offering. The aged wine was called Añares, and the winery wanted a name that was similar to round off the portfolio. After much thought they settled on Añal…

The name would have been bad enough even spelt correctly, but it was rendered positively offensive by the tendency for the accent to fall off the 'n' in emailed press releases."The wine was fine," said one of the first journalists to try the prototype, "but I don't think they appreciated my asking them which end I was meant to drink it."

Nor are such innocent mishaps a thing of the past. Why, Musty can think of a whole range of wines from Bodegas y Bebidas (Spanish again!) which proudly have the words Ars Vinum on the label.

Now, two thousand years ago, when rather more people spoke Latin, such admirable sentiments (strength through wine) may have been a big seller. But for your average English speaker it looks very much like 'Arse wine', which is not quite so appealing - especially at £30 a bottle. The latest wine in the Arse series is a very good super premium Rioja (or should that be Rear-oja) that has spent two years ageing in wood. In butts, presumably.

No such problems for Jack Daniels, which remains, rather mysteriously, one of the world's most recognisable brand names. Now, evidently feeling they've mastered the art of whiskey production, those clever chaps from Tennessee have set about expanding their range with a 'JD-flavoured malt beverage' in conjunction with Miller brewing.

The drink is officially aimed at 21- to 30-year-olds everywhere (yeah, right!), which must be why Musty finds the thought of it so repellent. After all, if Musty wanted a whiskey chaser and a beer, she'd order them separately - and neither of them would be a JD or a Miller.

Still, she's sure it will be very popular with pubescent teenagers who don't know any better.

More odd mixes in the pipeline, this time from Coca-Cola who are developing plans for a vanilla-flavoured version of their ubiquitous fizz. Given that the last flavour tinkering of Classic Coke proved about as popular as Yasser Arafat at a Bar Mitzvah, Musty is surprised that the Big C is even thinking about messing with the recipe again. Then, further down the press reports she read that Americans "routinely add shots of vanilla syrup to the drink to add sweetness" and her suspicions were aroused still further. Adding sweetness? To Coke? Surely that's like adding jalapeno peppers to a vindaloo curry. No, the whole thing was too ridiculous to be true - and surely no coincidence that the story broke on April 1st.

One story which sounds so ridiculous it ought to be an April Fool, but isn't because it broke weeks before April 1, is the Amazing Case of The Terrorist and the Portuguese Table Wine. If it sounds like a highly convoluted Victorian detective thriller, the reality is hardly any less plausible. Apparently, Herdade do Esporao, from the Alentejo region, has withdrawn 12,000 bottles of its 1999 Tinto Reserva because the bearded, turbanned figure on the label is reckoned to look too much like Osama bin Laden. No, really…

Finally, since we're in a semi-political mood, Musty has wasted a few minutes to come up with some anagrams of the world's most famous… Starting with the wrecker of Portuguese wine labels.  

OSAMA BIN LADEN
O a banned Islam!
I mean sandal B.O.
Anal BSE domain
I Dalaban's omen

GEORGE W. BUSH
Who 'e buggers

COLIN POWELL
Cpl Wool Line

TONY BLAIR
Talib'n Roy

YASSER ARAFAT
A Rasta's faery

ARIEL SHARON
Har! Lion Arse.

And perhaps most surreally of all:

THE TALIBAN
Hate in a BLT

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