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Phil Oxera

Published:  18 January, 2007

In Phil's not particularly humble opinion, Vini Portugal's latest run of print ads is a great improvement on its previous attempts to drum up interest in Touriga, Baga and the rest.

Mind you, anything, surely, is an improvement on Tony Parsons, and I would hazard a guess that the team behind the Secret Potion' campaign will not be rubbing shoulders with Trevor Beattie or Charles Saatchi at this year's Advertising Effectiveness Awards. For those of you who have not seen them, the ads are conceived in the style of comic art, or kind of Roy Lichtenstein', as one Portuguese producer optimistically describes them. According to that same producer, however, the ads were not meant to be quite so revolutionary. The drawings, which have so enlivened the back pages of Harpers among other places in recent weeks, were only supposed to be draft copies - a storyboard, Phil believes, is the ad-industry term - for the real campaign which was to feature real, sexy, young people. Alas, Vini Portugal didn't have the cash to hire people and so ran with the cartoons instead. (Strangely, Phil understands that the other recent run of what he thought were cartoon ads - for Gallo's Australian joint venture McWilliams - in fact features photos of real family members, and not, as you may have suspected, clichd drawings of a bunch of Aussie stereotypes).

Even if the Portuguese ads had featured photographs, the copy would still have been the same, and, to be charitable, that copy does seem to have lost something in translation (Can we give you some advice? Don't tell your friends.' Erm okay,

I won't. What am I not supposed to tell them exactly?) Mind

you, maybe the confusion's to be expected. As our good friends at The Oxford Wine Company know all too well, Portuguese is a fiendishly tricky language. Indeed, as Robin Shuckburgh writes in the company's autumn magazine, it's almost completely incomprehensible' to non-speakers (as opposed to, say, English, which is comprehensible to anyone if you shout loud enough).

The music industry has long been aware that death sells,

and Bob Marley, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison have all made more money for their paymasters posthumously than they did when they were alive. Now, at long last, the wine trade appears to have cottoned on to this phenomenon. The catalogue for Christie's recent sale in New York on 22 October featured a number of wines from Domaine Roumier in Burgundy, and in the introduction to the wines, the catalogue informed us of the death of the domaine's owner, Christophe Roumier. Fair enough, but the good people at Christie's overlooked one crucial aspect of marketing the dead: it does tend to work better if the person in question is, well, dead. Unlike Monsieur Roumier who, as an embarrassed retraction from Christie's later stated, is in excellent health and, as usual, fully active at the head of the famous family domaine'.

The Internet has been a blessing for many a profession, but possibly none more so than journalism. Hacks can now research their features without leaving their desks or even picking up their phones, and the life of the wine journalist, for example, has been improved immeasurably by the existence of reference sites such as America's Among other useful functions, the site has given the lie to some of Phil's assumptions about Chablis. Did you know, for example, that Chablis is thought to have originated in northern Spain and grows well in a Mediterranean climate'? Or that the Chablis grape variety is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world'? Or even that Chablis wine usually has red-fruit characteristics, deep violet and purple colour, strong tannin structure and high levels of alcohol content [and] is sometimes peppery like Syrah'? Phil certainly didn't, but he looks forward to tasting some of the vast quantities of local table wines (jug wines)' that are produced using Chablis all over the world'.

As we all know, when it comes to wine, men are from Mars and women are from vinous, and now, at last, there is a producer who understands the distinction. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bart O'Brien was just another Napa Valley producer until one day he had an epiphany. He realised that men and women looked at wine differently.' Since then, O'Brien has become something of a philosopher on gender and wine. Men well, they hoard wine. Then, when they break it out, it's like one-upmanship,' he told the Chronicle. But women see wine more as an accessory. And they pay more attention to packaging, too.

At parties,' O'Brien goes on, women like to bring wine bottles

in attractive bags. Men don't want to give it away - they want

to open it and share it.' Fortunately for women everywhere, the sensitive O'Brien is no mere theorist, and he has funnelled his findings into his latest wine, which, he says, appeals to women in a positive way'. Why is that, Bart? Well, for one thing, the name, Seduction, is exactly the kind of thing women love. But what really seals the deal? We put each bottle in a crimson gift bag.' Ah-ha! Phil fully expects to see the $30 blend-in-a-bag lined up at the next Women of Wine event.

Ever wondered who English cricketing legend Ian Botham would invite to a dinner party? Neither had Phil, to be quite honest with you, but having discovered the answer in a recent interview with Beefy in The Daily Telegraph, Phil thought he'd share his findings with you. Alongside Churchill and John Lennon, Beefy would have two mustachioed characters: Genghis Khan (a fascinating man, well ahead of his time', apparently) and modern-day Khan lookalike Geoff Merrill, who, Botham informs us, is one of the best winemakers in the world'. Phil is sure that the Barossa-based Geoff is sparkling company, but one has to ask if he would have made the guest list were it not for a couple of other small matters that Botham neglects to mention. Could Merrill's elevation to top table have anything to do with the fact that he is a business partner of Botham's and the man behind the wine BMW, aka Botham Merrill Willis?

The mother of all celebrity wines is not BMW or anything endorsed by Cliff Richard, Greg Norman, Bob Dylan or the bloke from Simply Red. It has to be Jesus Juice, a wine produced by American television news anchorman Bruce Rheins. The wine features a picture of the self-styled king of pop' Michael Jackson in a Christ-like pose and takes its name from the cocktail of wine and Coca-Cola that Jackson is alleged to have presented to young visitors to his Neverland ranch in the guise of a soft drink. Jackson is no fan of the wine, apparently. Phil is not sure why, but it's unlikely to be because Jacko found the wine too young.