26 August 2009

Two Oddly-Named Wines

Wrongo Dongo and the Bitch. We're a long way from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, folks.

I've got nothing against funny names, and have even celebrated them at times. Mostly I'm concerned with what's inside the bottle, but I'll give extra credit when a good wine has good design and marketing. I'm going to do a little face-off here with these two wines, opened on the same night. Both are made from Rhône grapes grown outside southern France, they're close in age and price (around $10 each), and both are meant to grab the attention of shoppers with a certain sense of humor.

The Competitors:
The 2007 Wrongo Dongo is from the Jumilla region of Spain, pure Monastrell (Mourvèdre). It's made by Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil, but I didn't see any info about it on the website. 14% abv.

The 2008 Bitch Grenache is a Grateful Palate import from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. 15.5% abv.

Round 1: Aroma/Taste
Bitch was very hot due to the high alcohol, and what remained was a big strawberry jam profile. It also pours somewhat thin; it looks a little too light to be a full red. A one-ounce tasting pour can look almost like a rosé. After several hours of breathing, some of the heat blows off and you get this wine with a light beginning, big fruity middle, and a brash, heavily tannic and slightly bitter finish. Something of an odd experience.

Wrongo Dongo was much more in line with a traditional Spanish table wine. Lighter body overall with far better balance and restrained finish. Interesting, earthy aromas including tar, funky black peppercorns, a bit of the barnyard, and black cherry notes in the background. (This may sound repulsive to wine newcomers, but it was a nice surprise to find an Old World profile like this packaged as a novelty for the American market.) It should also be noted that this wine was good right after opening as well as hours later.

Winner: Wrongo Dongo

Round 2: Name
I don't use the word bitch often, and when I do, it's as a gender-neutral verb equivalent to the Yiddish kvetch. However, that name combined with the pink design has made this a popular gag gift for women to give amongst themselves and take to girls-night-out parties. How it didn't get a Sex and the City tie-in I'll never know. In fact, why don't they stock this alongside the wine coolers, Franzia boxes, and White Zinfandel? (Just kidding, ladies.) I was always curious to try it, but never felt like actually buying it. Would it send a signal that I'm mad at women, or is there a prison connotation? Would I have to buy Scotch, Jägermeister, and Everclear to compensate, like when a guy is sent to the store by a woman to purchase certain items and tries to hide them under a six pack of beer and a few cans of Wolf Brand Chili?

Wrongo Dongo is a weird one. Supposedly it's a Massachusetts euphemism for being dead wrong. Either that or someone is an Oingo Boingo fan but couldn't secure the licensing rights. The name is certainly unusual, but it doesn't have anything to do with Spain, wine, nor is it a common enough phrase to catch customers' attention. Compare this oddity to the more appropriate Jumilla export Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

Winner: Bitch, by default

Round 3: Design
Both are fairly modern designs, far beyond the old house and all-caps of traditional French wine labels. I admit the Wrongo Dongo label is creative, but I'm not fond of that style, and the eyes make it slightly creepy. Keeping mascots' eyes from looking scary is hard work, such as with the Pillsbury Doughboy or in early episodes of The Simpsons, when a character viewed ¾ from behind would appear to have hollow eye sockets. The minimalist sanserif font is nice, but like the name, I think it's too weird to accomplish much.

The Bitch is, however, beautifully designed. Simple yet elegant layout, fun yet subtle use of hearts, and a curious shade of salmon. Best thing: that's a great bit of custom script work on the name. It would have been much easier to just use one of the millions of generic script fonts out there, and almost nobody would have cared. But they went that extra mile, and I appreciate that. Plus the back text made me burst out in laughter. Instead of a goofy story, the word "bitch" is repeated dozens of times.

Winner: Bitch

* * *

So Bitch wins on style, but Wrongo Dongo wins on substance. If you could switch the labels on the bottles you'd have one fantastic wine and one real dog. As a former graphic designer, I pay perhaps too much attention to packaging. I try not to let it influence my purchasing decisions, but we're all human and successful advertising plays into those desires. It's why I enjoy blind tastings, or getting random bottles to try--it forces me out of my habits and makes me focus on the inner character of the wine. To quote a great philosopher, beauty means less over time, but "you can't fix stupid".


The Wine Commonsewer (TWC) said...

TWC rule # 6: the quality of the wine is inversely proportional to the cutsey/kitschy factor of the label.

That rule is not immutable and is fading in applicability, but still important. At one time, every cutesy, kitschy, cool, interesting, funky, funny label was designed to sell marginal to crappy wine.

I think that began to change with those funky Republicans who market Smoking Loon wines. However, Screaming Yellow Cab and Big Red Truck are still pretty lousy wines despite the very cool labels.

Yet another splendid post in a long line of them. Howsomeever, I don't think I'll be picking up a bitch anytime soon. :-)

Benito said...


For the record, Bitch was a gift from The Roommate, who doesn't drink. She got two bottles from assisting with a charity auction for the Humane Society (hence the choice of that particular wine).

I heard a few tut-tuts about having a French wine called "Fat Bastard", but there are established, distinguished names out there like Bâtard-Montrachet (after the bastard son of the Montrachet knight).

Thanks as always for reading; here in the summer slump I'm trying some different stuff.


Samantha Dugan said...

We have both those wines and I have to agree with your findings, the Wrongo Dongo is quite a bit better. That being said, we sell WAY more Bitch Grenache, which I think is simply gawd awful.

Benito said...


I know people who have purchased Bitch, yet don't even drink red wine. It's true marketing genius; on par with Starbucks developing a loyal following of people who don't drink coffee.


Grace said...

I have a bottle of Bitch that was given to me when I moved. I haven't tried it yet, but I love the bottle.

Benito said...


When you had that bottle over at Paul's for so long, it was a constant source of temptation, sort of like the drum set in the movie Step Brothers.

I was primed to like it: I was curious, I've enjoyed loads of other Grateful Palate imports, and as stated here, I really dug the design. But it's a bizarre little wine.