April 02, 2010

A Manly Wine? A Manly Whine

A friend of mine recently made use of my apartment in Montreal, which has seen a succession of temporary sub-lessees over the last seven months or so. As a thank you for her couple of nights repose, she left Mrs. VB and me a bottle of wine in the place, ready for our eventual return. Knowing my penchant for things manly, said friend asked the expert in the local Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ – provincially run liquor store) for a recommendation on manly wines. Blank looks ensued.

Naturally, there will be divergences on such a subject. If, for example, a manly wine is supposed to reflect the character of manliness, then we should need a clear definition of manliness in order to proceed. Unfortunately, judging by the myriad groups and societies out there in the ethereal world, no such common ground exists. It may be that my own definition (provisional) would have foxed the sommelier: robust but refined; sophisticated but blunt where necessary; polite but candid; traditional, with one eye cast to men of great vintage, but also forward looking; fun, jaunty, even eccentric if judged by popular tastes, but solid, reliable, distinguished and, above all, grounded. If anyone can recommend me a wine that sounds like this man, please waste no time in letting me know.

I thought this was a fairly unique problem I was having, but then yesterday I saw this (click to enlarge):

Apologies for picture quality. The only way to get it was to photograph my screen.

Personally I have no problem with oak. What better symbol of strength, endurance and stickability is there than the oak tree? But regardless, I found this faux campaign entirely distasteful, precisely because it failed on point of politeness, sophistication and distinction. A man does not need to point out who is a wimp. It gives the impression that he is somewhat self-conscious of his own status as a man. Self-worth and self-assurance lead us to accentuate the positive, not to point fingers and sneer; certainly not to get up meaningless petitions. The conspicuous failure, however, is the absence of substance in its definition of the opposite to the thing it protests. One cannot laud ‘authenticity’ while practicing gimmickry. One cannot appeal to the ‘interesting’ without demonstrating what on earth that empty label might mean (the word ‘interesting’ always gets crossed out of student essays). One cannot celebrate ‘complexity’ while denigrating the word ‘cause’ by applying it to a shallow marketing campaign.

So I ask you again, dear Readers, for your recommendations. Please, nobody say Ravenswood.


  1. Perhaps we should look to Jack Lopate, the manly character in the film "Sideways" , as our guide. See him behind the wheel of his Dodge Charger going down the road swilling from a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.

    I wish to think of you drinking a decent claret or Burgundy. If you ever find yourself in the Washington, D.C. area, please allow me to fill your glass my kind friend.


  2. A generous offer, thank you. One never knows where the world will take one. If I'm drawn in your direction, I shall take you up on the offer.

  3. 'No, Sir, claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy'

  4. Well, quite. One does wonder if Johnson can rightly claim to have attained heroic status, or if he merely aspired. Of course, if we are to take this version of things, then we should include being rotund and suffering from gout as markers of masculine prowess. Nevertheless, I concur that there is a 'power' to drinking brandy, and that it 'is most grateful to the palate'.


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