When will a wine label backfire?

Tank Garage Winery caused a small storm on social media this week, when they released a wine with a pornographic label. Is there a place for such labels?

Tank Garage Winery/Tank Garage Winery
Tank Garage Winery/Tank Garage Winery

Tank Garage Winery in Calista, California, sparked a storm on social media this week when they released a new skin contact white called Skin Flick.

“With Skin Flick, we’re taking it back to a time when pleasure was business and business was booming,” said the press release. “Spanning the late-’70s through early-’80s, the Golden Age of Porn was an era of decadent glamour and sexual revolution.”

The release went on to explain the goal was “to make a white wine with lusty intentions”. To that end, “we emblazoned the bottle with a recreated film strip from an actual porno.”

The film, Wet Wash, is from the 1970s, “depicting a hot car wash encounter turned into an erotic romp”.

The backlash

The response was swift – and harsh.

“Well, I have gotten the worst press release ever,” tweeted freelance journalist A.C. Shelton, quoting from the release: “This wine is sexy, dripping with aromas of orange blossom, banana laffy taffy, and nutty baking spices. On the palate, hints of orange marmalade ride your tongue, with a refreshing climax that will leave you moaning”.

Kara Newman of Wine Enthusiast tweeted back: “Got this too. My response: take me off your press list. And tell your client to respect women.”

Ed Feuchuk, vice president of marketing, told Meininger’s that Tank Garage Winery celebrates vintage California and its rebels and daredevils. “The golden age of pornography, spanning the 1970s and 1980s, was truly a time of glamor and decadence, but also a time of revolution that really helped destigmatize sex and empower people in the process,” he said. “We've always loved this about the era and the films of that time are tonally and aesthetically iconic to us.”

Feuchuk also said the wine wasn’t aimed at men. “We don't really think that way when it comes to making wine. What we found is our weird experimental, anti-establishment values reach people of all genders, ages, and walks of life.”

Is risqué too risky for wine?

Meininger’s took to Twitter to ask retailers and sommeliers if such a label was a good selling point, or a problem. The answers were overwhelmingly negative.

“Tricky to serve it at the table,” replied certified sommelier Irene Graziotto. “Will definitely create some embarrassment amongst guests. A group of friends might laugh at it, but can you imagine what will happen with a business lunch?”

Restaurant critic and writer Dara Grumdahl said such a label would provoke “lewd discussion and abuse” of bar tenders, servers and other employees.

Numerous commentators pointed out, however, that the wine was intended to be sold direct, and that it had achieved its aim of getting outsized media attention.

Tank Garage Winery, opened in 2014 in an old gas station. Its founders, Jim Regusci and James Harder, have collaborated on other wine ventures and decided that Tank Garage would release one-off blends.

Skin Flick is a skin-fermented blend of Vermentino, Roussanne, Verdelho, Pinot Gris, and Trousseau Gris from the Sierra Foothills and sells for $36.00.

The price does not include the DVD.

Felicity Carter

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