By Robert Folsom | January 23, 2012
One definition of manners is “social conduct… as shown in the prevalent customs.” For example:
A well-mannered dinner table must include good wine.
Feel free to let that sentence conjure up an image of lace tablecloth, crystal glasses, china plates — and classy people who drink vintage wine and eat gourmet food.
Yet look again at the wine bottle — and instead imagine what sort of “manners” or “class” you would conjure if the name on label was “Jealous Bitch” or “Fat Bastard”?
Kind of messes up the pretty picture, right? After all, wine’s uniquely rich tradition is synonymous with living well. A bottle of the rarest vintages fetch sums that would buy a three-bedroom home.
We get some background from a recent New York Times article about “rude wines,” which says the current trend in novelty names apparently began when the French introduced Fat Bastard to the U.S. market in 1998, not long before the long-term stock market trend turned in early 2000. Then Bitch debuted in 2004, while Jealous Bitch followed in 2005.
Nasty wine names these days include Rae-Jean Beach and her husband, Stu Pedasso. (Say the names aloud to get the play on words.) Rude Boy’s shorts disappear when the bottle is chilled. Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush and Ball Buster both grace grocery shelves.
Is there a way to make sense of this — the queen of beverages sold as a streetwalker? News accounts suggest that the trend is a gimmick to draw attention to an inexpensive product. But the question remains: Why the cheap wines now, with names like that?
Consider this insight from Bob Prechter’s landmark “Popular Culture and the Stock Market” (August 1985):
At turns in the stock market (and therefore, mood), the dominant popular singers and groups [and wines!] have faded quickly into obscurity, to be replaced by styles which reflected the newly emerging mood.
This same explanation applies to “rude” wine. And what, precisely, is the newly emerging mood? According to Prechter, a “crisis in manners” would be observable “in the form of cheating sportsmen, loutishness on the streets, and parents who ape the style and slang of teenagers…” As the Times quoted a beverage law attorney: “…not many things are off limits anymore.”
How else are cultural fault lines shifting? Read the latest issue of The Socionomist for what we see unfolding now.■
Andrea Dibben contributed research.