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In This Issue
 Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape An old friend's book about wacky wine labels is a hilarious read, and it contains more than a grain of learning among the chuckles.
 Goats Do Roam 2003 Western Cape "Goat-Roti" ($16.99)
Suiting today's tasting to the topic, we sample a South African wine with a controversially punning label.
 The California Wine Club Save up to 60% on Sonoma County Gold!
 This week on A tasting rehabs Merlot's reputation, and forum discussions take on Austrian wine education, 10 gross foods and the loss of a historic Napa Chenin Blanc vineyard.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape
Pre-order Peter F. May's "Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape" for shipment on arrival from for $11.02, a 34 percent discount.
Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape

"What do we expect from the label on a bottle of wine? Obviously it must communicate. A label that doesn't tell us what's in the bottle fails the functionality test and inspires no confidence in the consumer.

"But is it enough simply to impart necessary information about the wine? Once a label has done its duty by telling us who made the wine, where it's from and, in most cases, what grapes it contains, is there any need for more?

"Some wine enthusiasts would say no ... But in an age when even middle-size wine shops offer the consumer a choice of hundreds or even thousands of selections, it's hard to blame the folks who market wine for coming up with tricks to make their offering stand out."

I'm quoting myself today, having penned that mini-essay on the wine label as the foreword for my online pal Peter F. May's new book, "Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape," which just arrived for review and will soon be available for sale.

Peter, as I note in the foreword, is an Englishman with extensive expertise in a couple of wine roads less taken: The unusual South African wine grape, Pinotage, and the offbeat wine label. His popular wine-label Website, Unusual Wines (Diversity in Wine), has become the Web's No. 1 resource on the topic of weird and wacky wine labels from all over the world.

I'm delighted to report that he has brought all this - and more - to print in his new book. Whether you're a committed wine enthusiast or a novice with a sense of humor, I think you'll find it as refreshing as a chilled glass of Mosel Riesling and as sprightly as a chilled glass of sparkly Prosecco. I want a copy for my wine cellar, another for the coffee table, and perhaps a third for reading during those quiet moments in the ... well, you know.

Now that I've had the opportunity to enjoy the book in its finished form, I'm even more impressed. It's compact in format (about 6 inches square), but admirably fully packed, with 256 slick pages containing full-color reproductions of more than 100 offbeat wine labels, each facing Peter's thoughtful and witty comments on the label and, as a bonus, his brief tasting reports on the wines. It's full of chuckles, but with the laughter comes a healthy dose of serious wine education.

The formal publication date is June 1, but "Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape" may be pre-ordered from for shipment on arrival for $11.02, a 34 percent discount. Purchases made using this exact link,
will return a small commission to us at

Now, to suit today's tasting to the topic, here's my report on the current vintage of Charles Back's "Goat-Roti," a South African Rhone-style blend that affectionately mocks the French "Côte-Rotie." This wine, and Back's popular, more modestly priced "Goats Do Roam" ("Côtes-du-Rhône"), drew more jeers than cheers from the French wine industry, which sought unsuccessfully to bar the South African wines' names from trade, providing Back the kind of publicity that money can't buy. (Back's Fairview Wines also makes a "Goat Door" and "Bored Doe." I'll leave it to you to puzzle out the puns.)

Goat-Roti Goats Do Roam 2003 Western Cape "Goat-Roti" ($16.99)

This is an inky dark blackish-purple wine with a garnet edge. Ripe, spicy raspberry aromas add just a whiff of cocoa. Warm and full in flavor, ripe berry fruit is shaped by tart acidity and husky tannins; 14.5% alcohol adds body and warmth. The blend changes annually; the importer's spec sheet indicates that the '03 is a blend of 85% Syrah, 12% Mourvèdre and 3% Viognier. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. (April 27, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Like its real Rhone cousins, this earthy red blend would go well with all manner of grilled or roast meats and poultry; it was fine with a rather offbeat combination of leftover duck-leg confit and smoked pork ribs, shredded and converted into a pasta topping with a bit of fresh tomato sauce.

VALUE: Goat-Roti sells for about one-fifth the price of a good Côte-Rotie, and in fairness, a similar disparity separates the wines in quality. But it's earthy, robust and even a little "Rhone-like," and certainly competitive at its mid-teens price point.

WHEN TO DRINK: Like the Côtes-du-Rhône that it somewhat resembles, this wine is meant for drinking now, but certainly won't be harmed by a year - or several - in the wine rack or cellar.

The Fairview Website contains plenty of information about the winery and all its pun-loaded wines; the Goat-Roti fact sheet features the 2004 vintage, which is now in the market.

Find vendors and compare prices for Goat-Roti on

I've posted today's column in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where you're welcome to read the replies and add your own comments or questions at this link:

For more advanced wine-enthusiast discussions on this or any wine-related subject, you're welcome in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, where today's article is featured at this link:

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

California Wine Club
California Wine Club: Save up to 60% on Sonoma County Gold!

This month's Special Edition shipment from The California Wine Club features two Gold Medal-winning wines from Lambert Bridge Winery in Sonoma County. Thirty years of excellent winemaking shine through every bottle of the 10,000 cases Lambert Bridge produces each year.

Lambert Bridge's 2002 Merlot is round and smooth, with a typical retail price of $26. Rich and buttery, Lambert Bridge's 2002 Chardonnay normally sells for $24. To sample a two-pack for just $32.95 plus shipping, call The California Wine Club at 800-777-4443 or email

Both of these wines can also be purchased by the half or full case for just $10.50 per bottle. Big savings, on two really great wines.

Get ready for Memorial Day with fantastic wines from Lambert Bridge in Sonoma County! Visit the online Wine Store at
or call 800-777-4443.

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

WebWineMan: Merlot gets up off the mat!
After Merlot took a world-class dissing in the movie "Sideways," Richard Fadeley and his tasting team at the Columbia (S.C.) Free Times wondered whether this much-maligned grape had any future. So they bagged up 22 Merlots from just about everywhere, and found some pleasant surprises.

Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. In addition to our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service, we've just revamped our "classic" WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG), the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for serious wine conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. I hope you'll take the time to visit both of our forums today!

What the heck is Grüner Veltliner?
With the guidance of guest expert David M. Bueker, our monthly Wine Tasting 101 series takes on the mysteries of Austrian wine for May. More on this in a coming Wine Advisor, but there's no need to wait. Read David's educational intro at this link:

Yuck! Ten grossest foods
Also in our Netscape WineLovers Community, we're taking a light-hearted but halfway serious look at 10 exotic dishes that some cultures enjoy while others say "Eeeuuuwww!" Unhatched duck eggs with a side of durian, anyone?

Chappellet's Chenin Blanc - gone?
WineLovers Discussion Group members mourn the loss of a great California white vineyard ... but the winery tells us it's coming back!

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Sincerest form of flattery (April 28, 2006)

 Boundary-crossing Barbera (April 26, 2006)

 That's Gneiss! (April 24, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Veggies in disguise (April 27, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, May 1, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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