Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wine gets wacky

Nov 8, 2008

Hard-to-pronounce wine names are now making way for simpler monikers and cheeky puns

By khushwant singh

Notice what most people do when they are given the wine list in a wine bar?

They instantly cringe and then peer at it as if it is a difficult test paper.

They will then whisper their choice to the waiter, who will pompously declare: 'You mean the Chateau Troplong-Mondot', with such disdain that everyone in the bar will know the poor fellow had mispronounced the name of the wine.

A few will actually snigger. These are the same people who display the irritable tendency of being able to pronounce Chateau d'Aurilhac 2000 Haut Medoc with enough Gallic flair to win the approval of a true-blue Frenchman.

Any sensible person who has been to a wine bar knows the main obstacle to enjoying French wine is the unpronounceable names.

And with the brain-cell destroying capability of alcohol, these names are also too easily forgotten.

This is not a new problem. In the hefty copy of Wines Of The World, edited by Andre L. Simon and first published in 1962, a contributor wrote of Lacrima Christi: 'This is a wine that owes its fame to its name - as memorable and as evocative and a good deal easier for the Englishman to pronounce.'

However, the continued prevalence of difficult- to-pronounce and impossible-to-remember wine names has now given rise to two cheeky trends that I heartily drink to.

The first is the simplification of wine names.

There is now Redhouse wine from Australia and a Columbia Valley claret sold under the brand, House Wine. The latter has a childish drawing of a house instead of the imposing chateaux on many labels that make an Housing Board flat-dweller feel totally inferior and inadequate.

The second trend is the emergence of wine names that take the mickey out of the French. The South Africans have angered the Gauls with wines called Goats Do Roam and Bored Doe. To appreciate their humour, say the names out loud - they are puns on Cotes du Rhone and Bordeaux.

To exacerbate French pique, the Goats do Roam brand is now the biggest-selling South African wine in the United States.

Indeed, goats do roam. Wacky names are the industry's tactic to compete in an increasingly informal age. And it is working: A Gallup report shows wine ties with beer as Americans' favourite 'adult' beverage.

Even the haughty French have recently got into the act. The white wines of Languedoc are bottled under the name Fat Bastard and the wine label explains it is 'named after a British expression describing a particularly rich and full wine'.

While I may appreciate the trouble that could ensue when someone calls out for a Fat Bastard at a bar, I do shudder at calling a wine a Ball Buster. This red wine from Australia bears its name in tribute to the winemaker's wife, I kid you not.

The label describes it as 'not a dainty, frail or timid wine and neither is she' and with 15.5 per cent alcohol, compared to about 12 per cent for other wines, the Tait Ball Buster lives up to its name.

Despite its higher alcohol content, this is definitely a name that will not be forgotten.

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