Warning: Wine Nudity Ahead
I recall the day when I thanked God for the inherent prudishness of the Federal Government. It was that prudishness that delivered to me one of my favorite experiences as a wine publicist. Alas, it seems these days the Feds don’t have time to protect the sensibilities of wine drinkers from "offensive" images on wine labels.
It must have been around 1991 when working at a PR agency, I was assigned to work on the Clos Pegase account. It was a great appointment. Clos Pegase was, and still is, headed by Jan Shrem, a man whose inclinations, and means, led him to collect fine art. Some of that art made it on to his reserve "Hommage" wine labels. The 1988 Hommage held an image from Jean Dubuffet entitled "nu chamarre" or "Bedecked Nude". The semi abstract painting of a man showed an equally abstract rendition of the man’s genitals. The Feds would not approve the labels as it was considered by them to be "obscene."
That judgment was, of course, a gift to this publicist as it caused Mr. Shrem to have to "castrate" part of the label to get it approved. What fun it was to promote that story to the media.
Which brings me to the sorry state of morals at the TTB (the federal agency that approves wine labels) today.
This last weekend Ginny and I had the occasion to get together with our gang, our crew, our best friends. This group tends to do the same thing when we are together: eat, drink, talk, laugh, drink, eat.
One of my contributions to the table was the 2004 Loimer Spiegel Gruner Veltliner. A very nice wine. Yet, it possesses a label that would never have been approved back in 1991. Oh….how the prudes have fallen!
Everyone got a good laugh out of this label (and the wine was quite nice too). Yet, it occurred to me that if the Feds are going to approve this type of label then there is little chance of using the the protective and Nanny-ish urges of the federal government to gain publicity by crying out "Prude!…Ridiculous!…Artistic Persecution!" That path to gaining attention seems, alas, off the table.
There’s nothing about the Loimer label that is over the top or scandalous. Still, it further occurs to me that when the renowned prudishness of American culture is no longer in evidence, there must be a tendency to go over the top, to be scandalous, in order to get attention. And once that contest starts, well, you get MTV.