No Ménage à Trois, Please, We're British: U.K. Censor Strikes 'Midnight' Wine

A British regulatory agency is not feeling the love for the California brand's less-than-coy label language
No Ménage à Trois, Please, We're British: U.K. Censor Strikes 'Midnight' Wine
Too hot for TTB? Nope, in this case, it's the Brits who objected. (Courtesy of Trinchero Family Estates / Jeff Harris)
Feb 20, 2020

“Satisfy your deepest desires” and “turn out the lights and savor the pleasures of the dark”: If you saw this on a wine label, would you think: A) Joyful reference to the edifying relationship between wine and consumer, or B) "deliberate … association with sexual activity or sexual success"?

You might wonder, why not both? But in a ruling earlier this month, a British alcohol regulatory agency came down on California red blend Ménage à Trois Midnight for the above-quoted "problematic" saucy semantics on its back label that "went too far" in associating one adult activity with another. A spokesperson for the London-based Portman Group, whose stated mission is to “encourage responsible drinking habits among consumers … ensuring the responsible marketing and promotion of alcoholic products"—and which issues recommendations to U.K. retailers to unshelve offending brands—told us "a complaint was received" about the Trinchero Family Estates brand back in June 2019. (The characterization of Trinchero's defense of their intended meaning here is taken from the complaint; Trinchero politely declined to comment on the matter to Unfiltered.) Other recent beverages that drew fire include a Belgian beer whose label allegedly implied that it gave drinkers super strength, as well as some products considered edging toward marketing for minors, such as “Juicebox” beer.

According to the group’s report on the Midnight case, an advisory panel determined that given the brand’s name, the producer “would have to work much harder to ensure it was not making a direct link to sex.” The American government's wine-label police, incidentally, has not cuffed the Midnight bottling for its language, though they have gone after the likes of Kenwood, Clos Pegase and even Mouton-Rothschild for past label infractions.

The Portman Group, though, is not a government agency, but an industry self-regulator founded by “six major alcohol companies … to demonstrate the industry’s commitment to behave in the right way.” Indeed, their current membership includes familiar names: Pernod-Ricard, Diageo, Heineken and Bacardi, among others. The maximum sentence for guilty parties: A Retailer Alert Bulletin recommending stores drop the product. But “an RAB is a last resort, and we try to work with producers to avoid having to issue one."

Happily, the group said, Trinchero responded (platonically) amicably: “Although we do not agree with the panel’s interpretation," as a proud and undisputed purveyor of good vibes, "[we] will undertake to revise the label to remove the mentioned references.” Given the alleged nature of the content in question, it's all in all a wholesome end to Midnight’s after-hours story.


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