Rich, smart, chic and very trendy – Vinexpo, staged in Bordeaux in June, is a fantastic exhibition. The gigantic hall where it is housed looks out over the lake and all around there are numerous delightful restaurants under pretty white umbrellas, charming gardens, lawns and flowers. Everything is studied in down to the very last detail. Nothing suggests that inside this temple to good oenological taste hides the extreme bad taste of some of its contents. However, the aficionados of kitsch are up for anything as long as they can find something to add to their never ending collections.
Ugly, unwieldy, vulgar and over the top – the important thing is that they are always and rigorously useless. What follows is a selection of the ‘must haves’ of bad taste that we found at Vinexpo.
Goblets and bottles
Le Verreries Saint Clair have on offer, over and above their classic and eternally unattractive bottles decorated with scenes of bullfights, hunting and grapes being trampled, an oil and vinegar cruet shaped like a classic Bordeaux bottle containing a reddish bunch of grapes and vinegar with its little cork hung on the side. This is only a prelude to the cigales musicales – insect shaped bottles with, on the flat ‘stomach’ side, a musical mechanism making the sound of a cicada. But, since there is never any end to what kitsch can produce, we also find vertical football boots sunk into a base shaped like a collapsed football, transparent shotguns, cone-shaped bottles that resemble Christmas trees with little glasses hanging from the branches as decorations.
In only eight weeks – or so the brochure tells us – you can have delivered to your home a practical wooden coffer, a sort of sarcophagus of bottles shaped like a wheelbarrow or a truck or, for the sea-lovers, like a rising ship or a lighthouse. Definitely not to be missed.
Michel Cochonet proposes lovers’ goblets where the metal stems are welded together and slightly inclined as if in the act of making a toast with entwined arms with each lover gazing romantically into the others’ eyes. Or, on the other hand, trying to make out how not to dribble too much down their chins. The decanters encircled with silver bunches of grapes were quite something as well.
We will ignore the abundance of horrific labels only because it is impossible to choose which is the worst and will only point out Umberto Cesari’s Polvere di stelle (Stardust) bottle. This is a magnificent flask enhanced by nothing less than ubiquitous Swarovski crystals. Further on, going almost beyond the boundaries of chromatopsia, we find a blaze of fluorescent bottles displaying ever more exaggeratedly luminous liquids. Green apple or orange Poliakov vodka did not go unobserved either!
An even more developed form of packaging are the little Le couturier pour bouteilles, dresses for bottles, proposed by the Ro & Ro studio of Montecarlo. With only €175 — but you can pay up to €300 — you can dress up your bottles as barmen, cellar men, sommelier or maîtres d’hotel with designer Ermenegildo Zegna fabrics and details in silver. A little expensive you might opine, but just think how much you will save on drinking unknown and less than noble labels. If you don’t believe me, visit www.bottles-wear-company.com.
Here is a vaporised grappa in a handy 250cc spray format proposed by Distilleria Bottega. You can keep it in a back-pack or a handbag and use to aromatise coffee, cigars, desserts, fruit and shellfish or even to squirt a couple of drops on your neck as a perfume – just before going to bed. It knocks spots off Chanel n.5!
From the boxes evoking images of healthy mountain vineyards to the series of ‘peoples and nations’, the Palme D’Or must go to the stand made of fake marble with slot machines holding the bottles. When we ask for a photograph, we’re told that they do have them, but for private use only.
With the Côtes du Rhône wines you can find a long sack which appears to hold a bottle. However, what it really conceals is a red battery run ventilator which produces a spray of equally red and refreshing water. ‘Think fresh. Think Côtes du Rhône’ it says on the label. Just a pity mine didn’t work!
And here are the inevitable flat, highly coloured silicone armbands – the latest summer fashion. But, much more fashionable than ‘Love’ or ‘Respect’ you can brandish ‘collection en primeur’ – meaning “I was at Vinexpo 2005”.
And so, proud of my ‘monstrous’ gifts and with my mind filled and my eyes sated by so many horrors soon to become glorious ornaments on my mantle-piece, I return nostalgically home to a sober lifestyle: simple, hospitable and unfussy … nothing less than wonderful in fact.
Francesca Rosso, a journalist, works at the Slow Food Press Office
Translated by Nicola Rudge-Iannelli