Grab a Bottle of ‘Vin de Merde’ – it’s a Sellout




They label it “Crap Wine” and litter its packaging with flies but this year the expensive Languedoc Cuvée will sell 100,000 bottles – nothing cr…ppy about that.

Going up: it may be “merde” but its pricey

Jean-Marc Speziale the 45-year old Herault restaurant owner behind the “Le Vin de Merde” brand — fly-blown catch line “the worst hides the best” — says: “I know many winemakers. I understand their daily problems, and to hear that people continue to class the wines of our region as ghastly plonk or, worse still, Algerian drain cleaner, makes my blood boil. Winemakers around here bend over backwards to get the very best from their vines.”

Here he explains his concept:

Mr Speziale launched his label in 2008 through his Terrasse restaurant in the small town of Aniane (34150 Hérault, pop 2 098). He said the label may be a shocker but the wine is of high quality, developed by a professional oenologue friend using quality grape varieties from winegrowers belonging to the nearby Gignac cooperative. In its first year he sold 5000 bottles of red and white initially through his establishment but later through ten other regional outlets.

Just two years later Le Vin de Merde has seen a twentyfold increase in production and all because this Languedoc-Roussillon restauranteur decided to have a rant about the region.

Looking for a way to make a mark with local wine Jean-Marc Speziale approached winemaker Walter Vadaguierand who developed a red Syrah and Grenache Noir, vintage 2007, from small regional vineyards whose grapes are all harvested by hand.

His marketing gamble, not it should be said, welcomed by all winemakers in the region, was praised by Mike Favre, chairman of Mondial de Pinot Noir.

“He has boosted the brand and mocked his critics”, says Favre. “Its the ultimate in wrong footing competitors! And consumers like strongheads such as Speziale. Anyway remember its been done before. In July 2002, François Mauss, chairman of a professional wine-tasting association described Beaujolais as «vin de merde». That caused a huge outcry, Beaujolais winemakers were furious. They chased him through the courts demanding 70 million euros in damages. Today the bottles Mauss dismissed so crudely are in huge demand by wine collectors.”

Indeed the repercussions of the Mauss affair went all the way to France’s Supreme Court on that occasion. In 2005 that court reversed an earlier ruling of the Court of Appeal in Lyon, which had found that the publication of an article by the magazine Lyon Mag, reporting the words of an expert calling Beaujolais “crap wine” was a violation of section 1382 of the Civil Code and section 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Supreme court over turned this finding, dismissed the damages claim and awarded costs against the winemakers and in favour of the magazine.

Initially bottled and sold at 6.5 euros, the price of Vin de Merde’, now a trademark, has risen steeply as its fame has spread and as the picture above shows now costs 12 euros in some parts of France.

(Contact: Jean-Marc Speziale, Aniane Terra restaurant 06 11 52 73 94. email: la.terrasse.jm@free.fr)

Other provocative marketing ploys used by European winemakers:

  • Thierry Boudinaud a winegrower in the Aude used a similar ploy to sell wine to Americans under the label the “Fat Bastard”
  • An Italian company Alpa markets its dictator wines brands labelled Stalin, Franco, Mussolini and Hitler.

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

UPDATE:

Want to taste this infamous Vin de Merde?
You might if you look very hard find it at one of three upcoming Vignerons Indépendant wine shows at:
LYON – HALLE TONY GARNIER – 28 OCT to 01 NOV 2010;
REIMS – PARC DES EXPOSITIONS – 12 to 15 NOV 2010;
LILLE – LILLE GRAND PALAIS – 19 to 22 NOV 2010;
where say the organisers: “You will meet the winemakers themselves who will each in his own words recount some of his vineyard’s history the story of the wine, and the art of winemaking.”

At the same time you can leave your tasting notebook behind and learn to Taste A Wine using a free Tasting iPhone application. Taste A Wine offers tools for full tasting notes (photo, audio, written, tasting) and in less than a minute it can keep track of all your discoveries and favourites.

Taste A Wine also allows you to share your tasting experience on Facebook and Twitter, and to find and save all your notes in an Excel sheet.



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