Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sex and the Cittadella

From the "You've come a long way, baby" Dept. of Satirical Prognostication

One of the wonderful aspects about writing about Italian wine, life and culture lies in the Italians ability to stir things up. I might get tired of writing this wine blog (or wine blogs in general) but I never tire of the Italian sense of keeping things interesting.

In this recent case, I was sitting at a dinner table with friends, one who is a winemaker in Tuscany. This person had just gotten an email about a recent promotion for Chianti Classico in a convent in Radda. The accompanying image was in stark contrast to the normally secular interpretation one gives to a religious house. It appears the Chianti Classico Consortium has been involved in the restoration of the (former) convent of Santa Maria al Prato for ten years. The newly named “House of Chianti Classico” will have educational events, cooking courses, art, music and other events in which to showcase the wines of Chianti Classico. I’m good with all of this.

The images they have used in which to promote this new “house” are what caused pause, and of course, fodder for bloggers like yours truly. It piqued my interest. I’m far from prudish, but I had to wonder what the message was when I see what appears to be a nude woman with her legs in the air getting tickled by a feather, ostensibly one from a black rooster, with the tag line “The Black Rooster Temptation.” Is she a wayward nun? Is she underage? Is she alive? And the person who is holding the feather, do we know if it is man? Or a woman, perhaps another naughty nun? Was this the initial impression the Chianti Classico Consortium intended with this campaign? Questions and more questions.

Perhaps they were smart, for now we are talking about them.
The legs in the air business reminded me of images from the past, what we used to call cheesecake, or pin up photos. For years, the image of a woman’s body has been used to sell and promote wine, beer and whiskey. At the height of her career, the ultimate pin-up model, Betty Paige, posed as a topless bartender (or should we now call her a mixologist?) pouring a stout cocktail.

Even Chianti was not untouched in the great old days of cheesecake. Numerous shots are to be found of women in various stages of undress with the reliable old wicker bottle. Seemingly intended as “art” photos, with the bottles as props, nonetheless in many instances a woman’s body was objectified for another, not always so altruistic of purposes.

But in 2014? In 21st century Italy, and Tuscany, where women have fought for their place on the winemaking stage? I know my winemaking friend was mystified when she saw the images advertising a wine event in a former convent employing the bottom half of a female body, faceless, powerless, under the influence of someone or something else, even if it was intended to suggest pleasure.

Could this be a lampoon, hoisted and raised up the pole to see if it would fly? I find it ironic, odd and impregnated with innuendo. The black cock feather? The tickled pink legs? Lasciati sedurre, seduced by the black rooster?

From “Letters of a Portuguese Nun" by Milo Manara
Perhaps they might have employed the artistic sensibilities of Milo Manara? After all, he is known to be friendly with wine people in Italy. Maybe he could have upped the ante, thrown in a variation of the groundbreaking illustrations he did for “Letters of a Portuguese Nun." If you’re going to go that way, why not go all the way?

After a thunderstorm of biblical proportions and sipping on a glass of Vin Santo, my friend and I mused. Having been involved with the consortium, I wanted to ask my friend if this was a campaign that could have been dreamt up by a woman? Or were the usual suspects, middle-aged white men, the culprits?

Maybe this was someone’s idea of the road to reinvention, a disruptor concept, an attempt at innovation. Ultimately the temptation of the black rooster lacks much in the way of redemptive qualities. And while the ones who thought up this campy campaign might have been tickled pink with their inventiveness, from this side of the ocean, it looks like a poorly planned promotion. But it did get our attention. Just not the best of our attention.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment:

Wine Curmudgeon said...

Think they'll sign up Silvio Berlusconi to do some spokeswine work, seeing he has so much free time on his hands?

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