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Why Pamela Anderson Should Launch Her Own Line of Wines

2011 November 22
by Mike

I attended a tasting last week of the wines of Henri Bonneau. Although I’m not a big fan of over-the-top Southern Rhones, I thoroughly enjoyed these old-style, quirky Châteauneuf-du-Papes. The evening’s star attraction was the legendary 1990 Réserve des Célestins, which was served in a flight that also included the 2001 and the 1989 Célestins, highly acclaimed wines in their own right. Now here’s something that will appall you: the very pleasant gentleman seated to my left bailed on the dinner just before this illustrious trio of wines was poured. And why did he leave? To join his wife and children at—I kid you not—a Katy Perry concert.  “I Kissed a Girl” over “I Tasted the 90 Bonneau Célestins.” Sad.

The 90 was pretty spectacular—a gloriously decadent freak of a wine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s answer to the 1947 Cheval Blanc. The 2001 and the 1989 Célestins were sensational, too, but didn’t deliver quite the same ecstasy. After we had all formed some initial impressions, we did the oeno-zealot thing and discussed the three bottles. Almost immediately, a guy at my end of the table declared the 90 Célestins “the Pamela Anderson of wines.” It was a comment that required no explanation; everyone grasped the reference and knew exactly what he meant—the 90 was a total sexpot, the vinous equivalent of Anderson spilling out of a low-cut dress.

Have you ever noticed how often Anderson’s name is invoked to describe these sorts of wines? Gather a bunch of grape nuts around a table, uncork a wine like the 90 Célestins, and there’s a very good chance that someone will compare it to the famously front-loaded former Baywatch star. That someone is inevitably a man, of course, which I suppose speaks to both the poverty and tawdriness of the male imagination (and here I write not merely as an observer, but as an offender: I once said that a wine was Anderson-esque in its proportions; fortunately, my editor at Slate nixed that line and made me come up with something more original and less apt to cause offense).  No, “Pamela Anderson” isn’t as commonplace a descriptor as, say, “Parkerized,” but it has become shorthand for wines that give off a distinct whiff of va va voom—for wines that are extraordinarily voluptuous.

What’s interesting is that the Anderson analogy is still popular in wine circles despite the fact that her celebrity has dimmed  in recent years. While it would be a bit harsh to say that she is washed up, she is no longer married to a grungy rock star, has no new reality shows, movies, or sex tapes, and has been bumped from the gossip columns by younger trainwrecks. The fact that her name remains a staple of wine discourse can be taken as an indication that we wine geeks are hopelessly behind the times as pop culture goes (no bad thing, in my book), and also underscores the lasting impression that Anderson—or at least certain parts of her—has made on a generation of men.

(You will note that I have not included a picture of Anderson here. This is a wine blog; if you want cheesecake, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere).

At any rate, it occurred to me after the Bonneau tasting that Anderson should seek to capitalize on this unique niche that she occupies in the wine world. While I generally abhor the celebrity wine phenomenon and am not in the business of giving career advice to faded pin-ups, I think Anderson ought to produce her own wines. How many celebrities, minor or major, can say that they have become virtually synonymous with a particular style of wine? This alone gives her legitimacy that no other fameball vintner can claim. And need I remind you that her character on Baywatch was C.J. Parker? Talk about encouraging omens! It seems to me Anderson has all the justification she needs to launch her own line of wines, and think of the fun she’d have, the sales she’d reap, and the renewed notoriety she’d enjoy (can you imagine what her label would look like?). I can even suggest the names of a few bottlings—how about a Cuvée Parker, or a Cuvée Pur Silicone? I wonder if my neighbor at the Bonneau dinner would bail on that one.

19 Responses leave one →
  1. November 25, 2011

    You’ve got that right, Keith; Shakira would be well-advised to steer clear of Brunello.

  2. November 25, 2011

    Robin: SOME Brunellos lie!

  3. Jack Bulkin permalink
    November 24, 2011

    Ha Bill thanks for your kind insight. Actually, I am only keeping my young son who is filled with class and sophisticated well beyond his years. I will refrain from discussing his enhanced Mother out of respect to him and Mike. LOL

  4. Bill Klapp permalink
    November 24, 2011

    Jack, how many “classless, unsophisticated women” are you keeping at the moment?:)

  5. Robin C permalink
    November 23, 2011

    I’ve always felt that Shakira ( of Hips Don’t Lie fame) should launch a line of wines: Merlots don’t lie, Brunellos don’t lie, etc.

  6. November 23, 2011

    Thanks, Sasha; glad you saw that piece and liked it. And I had the exact same reaction to the zin/leather pants analogy. I think you are right, too, about the reason the Anderson comment elicited no reaction from the women at the tasting–most if not all of them were veterans of these kinds of dinners and had undoubtedly heard Anderson’s name invoked before, or similar comments.

    Unfortunately, good wine will probably not be on the menu for my Thanksgiving; we are joining my wife’s aunt and uncle at their country club, and if memory serves, the wine choices there are vile and worse. It might be a beer day. Have a great Thanksgiving.

  7. November 23, 2011

    Mike, you are not beating a dead horse. But it seems that perhaps you are taking my post a little more literally than it was meant to be taken–there was a tongue in cheek aspect to the article. No, I really don’t think that Pamela Anderson should start her own wine label, and no, I definitely don’t think she should call one of her wines Cuvee Pur Silicone. The use of “sad” at the end of the first paragraph? It was meant ironically. Do you seriously think I would rip someone for bailing on a glass of wine in order to join his wife and kids at a concert? I just thought it was an anecdote that would amuse some fellow wine geeks, and I tried to present it in an amusing way by assuming a tone of mock horror. You are not alone in taking my post more literally than it was intended to be taken; I see that some folks over on wineberserkers are in high dudgeon over what I wrote. So I guess we can conclude that the post either failed as an attempt at humor, or this kind of humor is simply lost on some people.

    If it makes you feel any better, I passed up a weekend-long tasting a few years ago that featured Cheval Blanc back to the 1920s and Yquem back to the 19th century because of a family commitment. So, again, my priorities are not as misplaced as you might fear (but man did it hurt to miss that tasting!).

  8. November 23, 2011

    Thanks, and yes, I remember that piece and enjoyed it — you make a great point about women as a proxy for the value wine drinker (that is, the vast majority of the market.) The “zin like a pair of leather pants” thing makes me want to stick a corkscrew in my eye. Also, I’d hazard a guess that this wasn’t the first time the women at your tasting had heard such a comparison and are pretty used to it!
    I hope you have a terrific Thanksgiving, well-oiled by some choice bottles from your cellar. Off to pick up a few bottles of champagne for my guests (the pink kind, of course–I am a woman, after all.) Cheers!

  9. Mike permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Mike, I don’t want to beat a dead horse (this will be my last comment) but maybe the guy was already 5 minutes late. Heck, maybe he was already 30 minutes late and had stretched it as long as he could. Maybe it was his daughter’s birthday and he didn’t want to disappoint her by being any later. There could be hundreds of reasons that led to him to skip tasting such revered wines. The fact is, you really don’t know and it comes across as a cheap shot, even a bit myopic and self-absorbed. I pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe wine. It’s what I do. But I have kids and I know that there are times when my passion for wine needs to be put on the back shelf. Nothing sad about that.

  10. November 23, 2011

    Sasha, thanks for stopping by. You make a great point. This particular kind of anthropomorphizing is lazy, dated, and cheesy. As I said, I tried to slip in an Anderson reference in one Slate piece a few years ago, and fortunately, my editor dinked it. I could chalk it up to the pressure of a deadline, but it was just me being lazy and reaching for a cliche. The compare-a-wine-to-a-woman thing is a product of the boys-in-the-sandbox thing, which is obviously still a big part of wine culture. What’s interesting is that there were several women at the Bonneau dinner. Not one of them seemed to take offense at the Anderson comment; instead, a couple of us men exchanged embarrassed glances and immediately steered the conversation in a different direction. If you are interested, here’s a piece I did some years for Slate about women and wine.

  11. November 23, 2011

    “The fact that her name remains a staple of wine discourse can be taken as an indication that we wine geeks are hopelessly behind the times as pop culture goes” — yes, and behind the times in terms of the actual wine market. Women make up the majority of wine consumers, and I don’t know how many of them want to associate themselves with Pamela Anderson. (Most of the women I talk to, in and out of the wine profession, roll their eyes at the whole “let’s-compare-this-wine-to-a-woman” thing. It’s not offensive as much as it is lazy, dated, and incredibly cheesy.) Yes, I get that this was a private tasting, and you weren’t debating whether or not to use the PA comparison on a shelf talker, but nonetheless. I also think these comparisons aren’t ask helpful as they seem. To me a “Pamela Anderson” wine would be a highly manipulated, overblown wine with zero complexity or appeal beyond a first sip — I doubt that’s what your fellow taster had in mind.

  12. JPH permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Stipulated: “putting family first” and “attending Katy Perry concert” are asynchronous.

  13. Jack Bulkin permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Living in Scottsdale AZ the plastic surgery capital of America, I am accustomed to seeing Pamela Anderson look alikes on a weekly basis. Usually classless, unsophisticated women who are kept and not deserving of adulation. Give me a Katharyn Hepburn wine anyday.

  14. Dan McCallum permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Mike S- are you thinking that there are not already enough big boobs in the wine business?

  15. November 22, 2011

    Fair point, Mike. Rest assured–my priorities only seem misplaced! But you should know that the guy cut out literally moments before the wines were served–surely, his wife and children would have forgiven him for being five minutes late.

    John, I wasn’t going to go there, but that shouldn’t stop you–and clearly it didn’t!

  16. Mike permalink
    November 22, 2011

    You think it’s sad that a dad put his family first over a wine tasting? Now that’s sad!

  17. John permalink
    November 22, 2011

    Maybe she could sell it as jug wine.

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