I'm pleased to be able to review "Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape" written by British wine lover Peter F. May,
a sometimes columnist for this website, www.wineoftheweek.com.
It's a quirky book of some of the world's oddest wine labels and playing a starring role is New Zealand's own Coopers Creek "Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush". It's a name that Coopers Creek owner Andrew Hendry jumped on after hearing a British critic's description of our sauvignon blanc. The bright green label with grinning cat has been a global success, although the regulators in the United States took offence and insisted the second name in the word be spelled "Phee".
Marlborough's Spy Valley, based in the Waihopai Valley near the satellite communications monitoring station that many refer to as Spybase, is also featured. The vineyard image on the label is enlarged to show individual pixels, the Morse code on the screwcap translates to Spy Valley and the back label looks like an index card.
There's also a wine called "Kiwi Cuvee". With a name like this, you would think it was from New Zealand, which is exactly the impression the French producers, cashing in on the success of our sauvignon blanc, wanted to convey. They realised there was nothing to stop them using 'kiwi' on their labels. Back in 2001 it caused an uproar with Marlborough producers who said the French were misleading customers, but there was nothing they could do.
Another French upstart swinging on the coat tails of New Zealand's sauvignon blanc success is "The Gooseberry Patch" complete with a picture of gooseberries. According to the author's tasting notes, it tastes of gooseberries too.
Peter's website, www.winelabels.org was the catalyst for the book, which has over 100 of the most unusual wine labels ever produced. Complete with an image of each label and their interesting tales, it's a fun book to leave on the coffee table, to pick up and have a chuckle over now and then. And if you are thinking of becoming a label collector, then the section on removing wine labels will also be most helpful.
Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape, at full release price, is $39.95 in New Zealand. It was released in August 2006, but will not date. In fact it begs for a second edition as more and more quirky wine labels are being produced. The wine producers are catching on that quirky labels grab the public's attention.
If you are wondering how the book got its name, it's from two wines. One is Marilyn Merlot, a California wine made from Merlot, obviously, and features a different image of iconic Marilyn Munroe each vintage. The other is Naked Grape, a range of Aussie wines without labels.
The book is small, measuring just 15.75mm x 15cm x 1.78cm (6.2 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches). It is 256 pages in length.
Click here to buy online from Amazon.
Parts of this review appeared in Sue Courtney's column in the Rodney Times in August 2006.
© Sue Courtney
11th January 2007