Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Banned in 'Bama

I love my wine and I love my family's home state of Alabama. I've never had to choose between them before. Recently though the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control (AABC) Board placed a ban on Cycles Gladiator wine because of its label. It features a replica of an 1895 French advertising poster for Cycles Gladiator bicycles, which symbolized a celebration of the freedom and happiness that pervaded Europe in the late 19th century, an era known as the Belle Epoque. This era marked many notable inventions and improvements to daily life, not the least of which was the modern bicycle. 

Clearly this wine should be banned: The woman is not wearing a helmet! And it appears she's biking at night with no lights or reflectors. So dangerous! How could that have been overlooked when it first hit the shelves in 2006? But suddenly the AABC Board has decided the stylized, art-nouveau rendition of the nude female violates Alabama's rule against displaying "a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner." 

Strangely, it appears the AABC Board has no problem with wines sold under suggestive and potentially offensive names like Menage a Trois, Fat Bastard and Bitch. And the Alabama Tourism Department seems to be cool with naked women in public. They distribute a tourism brochure featuring Hiram Powers' 19th century nude statue The Greek Slave on the cover. The statue is on display at the Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art in Tuscaloosa and the brochure is available in museums, interstate highway welcome centers and visitors' bureaus statewide. 

While the ban has caused quite a stir, it's also caused quite a business opportunity. Bill Legion, President of Hahn Family Wines of California, the makers of the wine, said its website traffic went from 100 to 8,000 hits a day and online sales have increased tenfold. I guess there really is no such thing as bad publicity. 

I was camping up in Big Sur, CA last week and ran into a general store with a killer wine selection. [Honestly, only in California do you find people sipping excellent vintages in front of their tent or camper.] It happened to carry Cycles Gladiator so I couldn't resist checking out the "lewd label" and buying a bottle. My girlfriends and I sipped on it while we sat around the campfire — although we made sure to drink it with our eyes closed to avoid seeing such a pornographic image. 

If you're interested in supporting the plight of the nymph, check out the goods on this site. Just be careful about wearing the shirt in Alabama. If they're banning wine with inappropriate images, what will they do to a person wearing one?! 

I'm a long-standing University of Alabama Crimson Tide fan, which is pretty much a religion in my family. But after this ban on Cycles Gladiator, I'm realizing my blood must have turned more cabernet than crimson since moving to the West Coast. Just don't tell my granddad, the biggest UofA fan that walked the Earth. He'd roll over in his grave. 


  1. How clever! What did you think of the wine? I have my bottle on the shelf with our family's Bear Bryant Coke can and bottle.

  2. Cycles Gladiator pinot noir is a go-to, inexpensive wine for us. This just cracked me up!

  3. Love your post. In fact we tweeted to the free world, and posted on our cycles gladiator facebook page.

    And I must confess that I was thrilled to hear you are an Alabama fan. Sometimes I feel a bit lost out here in the land of Cal, Stanford and USC. Luckily I know now I have a kindred spirit in Santa Barbara.


    Philip Woodrow
    Hahn Family Wines

  4. Just thought you would like to know, the head of the AABC is an Auburn fan.
    Roll Tide,
    Ben in Bama