Critter wines and critter shorts! My head is swirling with the cross cultural implications of brand, design, edginess, aroma and association.

Fresh from a visit to the Dartmouth College campus in New Hampshire (oldest son just graduated with MBA from its Tuck School of Business), I heard otherwise sensible young professional men rhapsodize about a kind of pink slacks (Rhode Island Reds) that are considered the ultimate in outrĂ©, and then move through their imaginary closets (they’re all broke after 2 years at B-School and suits are on their minds) to the hanger holding the critter shorts.

Whaa…. ? Um, while at least they are khaki, and you can get them in ankle length too, but they do in fact have critters embroidered at their bottom hems. Crabs, lobsters, fish.

Juxtapose this to the comments from local San Francisco wine savant Chuck , who snorts, “Critter wines? Won’t even stock ‘em!”

Pay attention, label designers! Chuck is influential as buyer for the well known Jug Shop wine store on Polk Street in San Francisco. His chief problems (we should all have THIS one!) is that there are too many wines to taste in his everyday life, and too many wines to buys for all his loyal customers. So he has to make some cuts according to wine realities – and his observation of wine consumer behavior over the past several decades certainly constitutes an important part of wine reality.

A wine label with a cat on it – cheetah, tabby, leopard – evokes the aroma of wet cat, or worse, cat piss. This even before the wine is opened!

Running horses? Horse sweat. And ouch, did you scratch that horsefly bite again just now? Golden retriever? Musty dogs fresh from the lake, maybe even with a hint of bear scat (a favorite rolling-in-the-meadow substance). Birds? Do I really have to go back to the chicken coop days of my early farm upbringing? Snakes, alligators, reptiles, iguanas…oh my… just as bad as lions and tigers and bears! Beware!

Having said all this, I personally like all those Sebeka blends of pinotage plus plus that come out of South Africa, courtesy of a joint venture with Gallo. Great value. Lousy label. Time for a re-think, perhaps? If the ZA* wine industry wants to reinforce in global consumers’ minds that their wines are in fact from a New World* region but absolutely made in and Old World way and with classic taste and associated aroma, then let’s move away from the wildlife image stuff, and concentrate on telling the real story on the label.

*ZA = the suffix on almost all websites of companies located in South Africa. This comes from the old Dutch “Zuit-Afrika” and should remind us that vineyards were planted more than 350 years ago by the Dutch East Indies company when they established Cape Town as a re-supply station.

*New World = generally and loosely used to refer to wine growing regions south of the equator.



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