Archive for December, 2009
The Seagram name still carries a lot of weight, even though the company got obliterated about ten years ago. Wiki says The Seagram Company Ltd. (headquartered in Montreal, Canada) became “defunct” in 2000. Until then it was “the world’s largest producer and distributor of spirits and wines.”
The brands live on. TTB’s database shows more than 500 approvals, with the brand name “Seagram,” within the past three years. This excludes famous brands formerly owned by Seagram, such as Chivas, Crown Royal, Martell, Captain Morgan, etc.
The City of Waterloo’s history makes the point that “like so many success stories,” Joseph E. Seagram’s early success was “almost accidental.” Joseph was asked to look after an Ontario grain mill, back in 1864, while the owner traveled to Europe. The main business was grinding flour. Distilling was a side issue, to use up excess grain, but Seagram began buying out his colleagues and shifting production from flour to spirits. The Bronfman family acquired Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in 1928. In another “almost accidental” quirk of history, “Bronfman” means “liquor man” in Yiddish.
Here is a great song that happens to feature Seagram (in a not entirely flattering light). It is Uncle Lloyd by Darrell Scott. The pertinent lyrics explain:
He and Dad would spend their evening
Sitting in lawn chairs in the yard
Where they’d drink a toast to Seagram’s
Seagram’s never went down hard
I felt sure this statement was famous and handed down from the ages. But even the mighty Google has not been able to locate the origin of this statement. The Peasant is 15.3% red wine produced by Four Vines Winery of Paso Robles, California. The label says: “Temperance, like chastity, is its own punishment.” Temperance and chastity are two of the seven virtues. For each of the virtues, there is a corresponding sin, totaling “seven deadly sins.” In the case of this label, temperance opposes gluttony and chastity opposes lust.
Here is a “delightfully chilling blend of Canadian icewine and vodka ~ VICE.” It is produced by Vineland Estates Winery, in Ontario, “one of Canada’s oldest and most renowned wineries.” The Vice website tends to suggest that Vineland would have liked to present this as a “martini,” but TTB can be protective of this term, and so it looks like Vineland settled for the term “cocktail” instead.
Speaking of vice, perhaps it’s time to sort out whether we are in the “vice” business or not. The Online Etymology Dictionary defines “vice” as “moral fault, wickedness.” The term dates back at least 700 years, to about 1300, from French. I can think of many things more wicked and fault-worthy than a 45 proof wine concoction, taxed and regulated out the wazoo. If this is vice, what is virtue? Here is a lawyer who scrupulously gravitates toward vice matters in his practice.
As if “The Wizard of Oz” and “Wicked” had not already made enough money, and entwined themselves enough into our culture, here comes Wicked Wine. It is bottled by Grove Street Winery of Healdsburg, California. I have resisted the urge to see this play, but I must say the graphics are striking. It would be tough to walk by a display of this wine without noticing Glinda and Elphaba. I suppose this could open Grove to the charge that it appeals to minors, like Ratatouille wine, but then again isn’t this the last thing a 19 year old would bring to a party?
It is likely that all beer, wine and spirits labels will change dramatically in the near future. TTB Administrator John Manfreda confirmed this in a recent speech. TTB has been working on new rules since CSPI and other groups submitted a petition in 2003. The new rules would require a “Serving Facts” panel on every container. This panel would include a lot more information, such as the typical serving size, number of servings per container, calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Because this is a big, controversial change, TTB has received more than 18,000 public comments during the past few years. There are far too many comments for most people to review, and so we will highlight and summarize the most noteworthy comments here. The most recent proposal and comments are here. This is comment 22 in a series; to see others, click on the “serving facts” tag below.
13 Senators submitted a 2 page comment back in January of 2008. It said:
- The proposed rule looks “methodical and careful,” for the most part.
- It is time for TTB to require an alcohol content statement on beer, to be consistent with wine and spirits.
- It is improper to show standard drinks by ounces or graphical depictions, whether optional or mandatory. They are complex and misleading.
Senator Dodd wrote separately, to say:
- “I agree strongly with your proposal to require the listing of nutritional information on alcoholic beverages.”
- Alcoholic beverages are the only food or beverage item for which standardized information is not readily available.
- Standardized nutrition information, on labels, is “critically important.”
- The rule should require labels to show the amount of alcohol per serving, in fluid ounces.
- Labels should define “moderate drinking” and explain that a standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol.
- A standard drink would be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of spirits.