Archive for May, 2009

In the span of a few shelves at the wine store, I found inspiration for a Vine Designs post: Three wines bearing labels that spoke to my punk and rock heart. Punkers used their bodies as a way to express their distaste for all things establishment, be it through fashion, hair, accessories or tattoos, and here were labels reminiscent of those days.

To get you in the mood, too, pour yourself a glass and listen to UB40’s cover of “Red, Red Wine” first (thanks to my blogging sistahs Renovation Therapy and Willits Photo Overflow):


RawPower_Final_CS2Beginning in the mid Seventies, the safety pin became one of the essential punk accessories. Torn jeans? Safety pins. Bracelet? Safety pins hooked together. Earring? Patches? You guessed it. The safety pin represented that gritty, underground, rebellious, working class, anarchic ethos. In an article titled “Safety Pin as Signifier,” in of all places, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott McLemee writes:

In the summer of 1977, Time and Newsweek informed their readers of a new subculture, called “punk,” that had emerged at a few rock clubs in the United States and Britain. It was a style of exuberant ugliness. Men and women alike wore short hair that had been cut seemingly at random, and dyed unnatural colors. Flesh was pierced in sundry locations, at times with safety pins. Punk bands had names like the Dead Boys or the Clash. The music was very loud, very fast, and seldom involved more than three chords. Dancing was spasmodic. Spitting was common.

I was pleased to read that the creator of this wine was not a punk pretender, but a real punker. Vocalist Rawley Power was the frontman for the Aussie punk band, “Anti-Power,” some 20 years ago. (I looked for any audio/video of the band online, but alas, no luck. Must’ve been a regional phenom) Raw Power shiraz is bottled by Old Plains Wine Co., based in South Australia. The grapes are grown on vines ranging in age from 12 to 45 years in Adelaide Plains.

If you’re looking for a wine to bring to your 25th or 30th reunion and want to show you’ve still got that edge, buy one of these. Your mates won’t be disappointed. Of course, for some funny nostalgia, you could bring some nasty wine coolers, introduced around 1981:

Big Tattoo Red

Big Tattoo Red Cabernet-Syrah 2006

Big Tattoo Red Cabernet-Syrah 2006

This bottle had a little pink ribbon around the neck, a tip off that it was more than just a nod to getting inked. Two brothers, Alex, a wine importer, and Erik, a tattoo artist, teamed up to start a wine in honor of their mom, Liliana S. Bartholomaus, who died in 2000 of cancer. A portion of the sales of Big Tattoo Wines (50 cents per bottle sold) goes to breast cancer research and hospice care in about 35 states and District of Columbia. (Distributors in each area have made matching donations from bottles sold as well.) Since 2002, they’ve donated more than $1.2 million.

Liliana’s favorite symbol was the fleur de lys, hence the label’s graphic designed by Erik, a New Mexico-based tattoo artist.

I enjoyed this syrah (50%) and cabernet sauvignon (50%) blend made from Chilean grapes.

Vintage Ink

Vintage Ink Red Wine

Vintage Ink Red Wine

I had to do quite the Sherlock Holmes shtick on this one. I came up with practically nada online, except for some indications that the wine had some ties to a big company that produces Robert Mondavi, Simi, Estancia and other wines. I contacted the winemaker, aka conglomerate, Icon Estates. The rep told me via e-mail this wine is only available at the H. E. Butt Grocery Store chain in Texas. I tried to get more info about this wine and reason for its really limited distribution, but have not heard back. Meanwhile, I bought a bottle in Massachusetts. I noticed the wine’s year–2005, not 2008–when I got home. (Note to self: adjust eyeglasses)

Icon’s web site is being overhauled and its new site is supposed to debut next month. Good thing because I found the current site frustrating!

My bottle Vintage Ink Red Wine, was a merlot-cabernet blend. It wasn’t memorable, alas. But that’s OK, right? My readers in Texas are the only ones who have access. If you live in Texas and buy a bottle, please let us know what you think.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed article mentions one of my favorite bands, The Clash. I’ll leave you with this classic:


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Egri Bikavér purchased at Trader Joe's

Egri Bikavér purchased at Trader Joe's

I had never thought of a wine industry in Hungary until I spotted this label (bottled by Vitavin Co. and imported by International Import Export of Los Angeles) in Trader Joe’s one evening. Who knew? Driven by curiosity and this blog, I added a bottle of Egri Bikavér to my shopping cart. When a wine label has “Bull’s blood of Eger” on the label, I couldn’t possibly resist. My husband shook his head and laughed.

We opened it last night. It’s a light-bodied red, a bit of acid, but smooth, and a crimson color. I prefer my wine to have a little more body, with richer fruit. But I bet this wine–a better quaity one, at that–might complement a meal made with spicy Hungarian paprika. That may give me an excuse next winter. What I wanted more was to learn about this wine’s pedigree. On Google, I found much more than I expected–a veritable treasure trove. Fans of this wine have a Facebook page, with 78 members from all over the world as of today. (I’m not joining.)

The wine is from the Eger wine region, which is on the southern slopes of the Bükk Mountains, whose winemaking dates back to Roman times. Eger is a town surrounded by 17 villages. In July, the region holds the Festival of Egri Bikavér, a three-day event with some 15 restaurants and 26 wineries. Can’t get there then? You can attend other festivities: In September, Harvest Day and a wine show; December, St. John’s Day Blessing of the Wine and a wine salon; and many other events. (If you can read Hungarian, click here for the region’s web site.) Here’s a poem I came across in my search:

“If I smell fine wine, I walk in;
Shouldn’t I enter Eger?
If I bypassed this town,
God would detest me…” Sándor Petőfi
Bottles of Egri Bikavér

Bottles of Egri Bikavér

A doctoral thesis dissertation, titled “The Possibilities for the Quality of Development of Egri Bikavér,” by Gál Lajos, prepared at the Department of Enology, Budapest Cornivus University, notes that the origins of this wine are a bit murky. One source states the word bikavér was first associated with Eger around 1851.

The wine itself is a blend of several varietals including Kadarka, Kekfrankos (Blaufränkisch), Médoc Noir (Merlot), and Cabernet Sauvignon, according to Manage Your Cellar, who adds this bit of history/legend about its name:
At the time, the Eger fortress was under attack by the Turkish troops. To give themselves courage and strength, the defenders drank the local wine in large amount, spilling it all over their body. When the attackers saw the defenders covered with red wine, they thought that the men had been drinking the blood of bulls and they fled in terror.
Yet another source has this to say about the wine’s legendary origins:
Legend has it that during the siege of the Eger fortress in the mid 1500s, Hungarian soldiers fortified themselves with Bikaver found in the catacombs of the castle. Enabled with what appeared to be super-human strength, they were able to hold off the Turkish invaders that greatly outnumbered the Hungarian troops.”
But my search brought up this little gem–a group called the Egri Bikavér Ensemble, eight music students from Gdansk, Poland, who perform on the streets and at few indoor venues, armed with 40 wine bottles filled with varying amounts of water. They prefer certain bottles, according to the group’s web site. “Supposedly the best bottles are after Egri Bikavér, Tokay and the Rhine wines. All tones (bottles) have their special appointed places. So that nobody makes a mistake,” the author of the bio writes. The ensemble plays classical music with some contemporary tunes thrown in. In this video, they perform Bolero:

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Rosso Primitivo 2007

Rosso Primitivo 2007

I bought this wine because of the timeliness, name and price. I didn’t expect much. The wine, “Mommy’s Time Out,” seemed like an odd name for a wine that is a product of Italy. But there I was–the week before Mother’s Day–strolling the aisles of a wine store studying labels and the wine was marked $2 off. The phrase “Mommy’s Time Out” sounded so American.

I looked up “time out” and “timeout” in the online Oxford Dictionary. The only definitions referred to sports. I can only surmise that at some point the phrase was absorbed into child rearing and then, eventually, adopted into the vernacular for other uses. And somewhere along the line, this vintner latched onto it as a marketing idea. But I speculate.

I bought the red–rosso primitivo–but the label reveals nothing about the grapes. The wine is bottled by CMSPA in the Montorso Vicentino region of Italy. I wish I could tell you more, but I could find nothing else online. Perhaps that won’t matter.  (The producer also makes a Mommy’s Time Out pinot grigio.) The site reveals little and is unlike the fancy whiz-bang web sites of other winemakers. This site is, frankly, amateurish.

The Wine Cask blog was blunt: “Unfortunately, the label is the best part about this wine.” The wine’s finish had an off taste. I feared something too fruity, too sweet. It was neither.

Maybe you’d give this wine to a new mom in a basket with other goodies–and because she’s breastfeeding, she won’t drink it anyway. For $9 (sale price), it’s worth the laugh because of its name. But be sure to include a better wine for mom’s palate. I bet many moms are more sophisticated than this and would appreciate something finer than this.

I wanted to end with a clip of The Rolling Stones “Mother’s Little Helper,” but the blokes have tight control over their property.

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I noticed this trio of wines because of the stringed instruments–two with guitars and one with a lute–featured on their labels. My husband and his son play the guitar, the latter professionally. My husband plays acoustic guitars, his fave being his beloved Martin D-28.

All three of these wines have Spanish pedigrees, just like the guitar. The 4,000-year history of the six-string guitar can be traced back to Spain and beyond. However, as Paul Guy points out, the lute, which appears on one of these wine labels, is not the guitar’s ancestor. The lute’s predecessor was the oud, a Moorish instrument. I found two video clips of Spanish music, but alas, could not find any of baguala.

Martín Códax Ergo Rioja


Martín Códax was a late 13th or early 14th century troubadour from Galicia. You can see his original music manuscripts on parchment here, which were found by chance in the early 20th century. Watch the Martín Códax Ensemble play one of his cantigas:

This rioja–86 percent Tempranillo and 14 percent Mazuelo–was produced by the winery Bodegas Martín Códax, founded in 1986 in Combados, Spain. Elliott Essman writes on his blog that he savored this wine, left untouched by his dinner guests the previous night (“Their loss, my gain”):

Much of the wine is aged eight months in American oak. Sweet oak, toast and vanilla come as primary aromas, with red berries and citrus peel. The Rioja, for all the ripeness of its fruit, is extremely dry, with moderate acidity and compliant tannins. The wine is very well balanced and fully palate friendly, bringing cocoa, tobacco, dried herb, deep ripe cherry and red berry. The finish is medium length and well filled with gentle juicy fruit.

I too loved this one!

Baguala Corte Tinto

baguala Baguala, the national music of Argentinian mountain people, features guitars, drums, other percussion such as blocks, and vocals. According to the Wine of the Month Club newsletter, “the baguala has Indian origins and is a chant composed of a simple melody built on three notes and then improvised and developed throughout the song.”

Made from vineyards of Finca La Buena (6,400 feet above sea level) in the Calchaquí Valley in northwest Argentina, this rich rioja is 36 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 36 percent Syrah, 18 percent Malbec and 10 percent Merlot. It tastes of lush fruits with some spice.

Red Guitar “Old Vine” Tempranillo Garnacha

red-guitarThe illustration on this wine label echoes the work of the Spanish artists Picasso and Miró. When I think of Spanish guitarists, classical guitarist Andrés Segovia (1893-1987) immediately comes to mind. Segovia played 19th and early 20th century music–not flamenco. Here he is playing in his later years:

The grapes for Red Guitar wine grow on vines that are over 100 years old, which, because of their age, yield fewer grapes yet have a more concentrated flavor. These vineyards in the small village of Lerga, Spain, which is in the Navarra region (between Rioja and Bordeaux), were handed down from generation to generation. Winemaking in this village dates back 2,000 years plus, when the Romans saw that its climate and soil were ideal for growing grapes. Red Guitar is overseen by Carlotta Orradre.

Chosen as Wine of the Week, a Washington Post writer notes, “The wine is quite sophisticated and is a great jumping-off point for further exploration of Spanish, French and other European wines.”

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