Should I resist the tired cliché, should I raise above the overused joke? Even if I were that strong and even if I were not secretly in love with clichés I still could not do it in this case. Even my wine merchant felt powerless against the buying-wine-by-the-label joke: "We bought it despite the label!", was her excuse. I didn't have any: I bought it because of the label. Because of the name. And because that day I had set out with a desire to buy something different.
I trust that even after just a cursory glance at the Wine Rambler you will agree that I fulfilled that mission - but was it a success?
Nothing about "Passion has Red Lips" is apologetic. Not the pulp label, not the name, not the tag line "750ml of pleasure" and certainly not the name of the producer - or as the label says about "Some Young Punks": "Young, impetuous and carefree, they abandon themselves to the passion." In fact, Passion is not the only wine with a distinctive design from the three Australian winemakers in the McLaren Valley. Their "Pulp" series for instance includes "Naked on Roller Skates" and there is also a Riesling "called Monsters, Monsters, Attack". So basically, if all you ever want to drink is Mosel Riesling or Bordeaux with labels that have not changed since Bismarck's time the Punks are not for you.
Now, I love the old-fashioned Germanic labels, but I also give people credit for doing something new - especially when they are not afraid to take it all the way. Which is why I ended up with this pulp-themed blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz clocking in at 14%. Not my average fare, but as a 15.5% US Cabernet demonstrated even higher levels of alcohol can go down very well with this cool climate, low alcohol Wine Rambler if the wine is exciting.
"Passion", however, did not quite get me there. Sure, it looks the part, both the design and the wine itself with its dark ruby colour. It has warmth and substance but is not totally without elegance. The bouquet ticks all the boxes you would expect from such a wine: lots of berry fruit including blackberry and blackcurrant; chocolatey vanilla and wood with a hint of leather polish; pungent herbal aromas of the sage-menthol-mint type; and for depth a touch of vegetable and meat broth, think cabbage soup. Could have done with a little more precision perhaps but not bad.
"Passion" also drinks very well with its smooth fruit and juiciness that balances the more tannic finish. And yet despite not feeling overly heavy, it lost my excitement somewhere in the generic warmth of the wine - the first glass went down very easily, during the second I felt saturated. My friend Katy, who shared a glass with me, liked it though, as I suspect other friends of the style will too, and some of you may want to buy it simply because of the design. And that, to be honest, was fun - so I fear, your honour, I will not stop buying wine by the label, although I will leave "Passion" for someone else.