wine worth fighting for

i never really wanted to visit alabama. but after this week’s news – that the state has banned one of my all-time favorite cheapo wines for (get this) nudity on the art deco label of cycles gladiator wines – i’m pretty sure i never want to step foot on any of that sweet southern soil.

the powers that be – in this case, the ABC (alcoholic beverage council) claim that they were responding to citizen complaints about the wine in restaurants and liquor stores. according to the ABC, the wine’s label, which features a relatively well-known art-deco photo of a woman riding a bicycle, falls under laws banning the display of “a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner.”

(read the full story here.)

i know what you’re thinking.

in an age where every one of paris hilton’s 2,000 parts is readily on display, and the kardashian derriere is as in-your-face as the reality tv show she stars in, this label must be particularly obscene, right? it must be really graphic – certainly closer to soft-porn than oh, say, the cosmo i picked up yesterday… right?



i’m sorry, but playboy, this is not.

if this is the sort of thing that the citizens of alabama want to get their panties in a twist about, they really need to get out more. forget the paris hiltons of the world. nudity in the form of art is some of the most ancient and beautiful.  have the members of the ABC ever seen statues of venus de milo, or michelangelo’s “david?”


(are those male genitals? oh my god. kids, avert your eyes.)

to me, the decision to ban gladiator says a lot about what’s wrong with some of our culture’s attitude towards sexuality. when a group of people demonize anything that even vaguely resembles the natural human form; when they turn a blind eye towards art and beauty and see only smut and salaciousness – we’ve got a huge problem.

we’re not protecting children from pornography. we’re instilling them with fear and distrust towards something that should be respected, enjoyed, and appreciated.

ahem. sorry. i promised myself that i would avoid the soapbox in this entry, but now i find myself climbing off of it… and attempting to get back to the reason why this wine is worth seeking out (and, if you’re in alabama, sneaking across the border – ooh, how prohibition-esque of you).

gladiator has long been one of my favorite bargain wines.  the most commonly available one – the cabernet sauvignon ($6-8) – is smooth, without the bitey, acidic finish often found in less well-made reds at this price point. it is a fruity, well-rounded cab with enough tannins to give the wine some backbone, but not so much that it’s not palatable without a juicy steak.

the gladiator wines (the label sells several other varietals, including syrah, chardonnay, and pinot grigio) are all affordable enough to have with dinner on any night of the week, and the stylized (or sexually explicit, depending on your point of view) label makes it perfectly suitable to bring to a friend’s place, or buy for a gift. each of the wines are incredibly good values for the price. they’re pretty widely available – you should be able to find them at any major liquor store.

and lucky for the rest of us, there are about 500 cases of gladiator making their way into liquor stores and restaurants…

straight from the sin-free state of alabama.

the wine: Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon
composition: 100% Cab
hails from: Central Coast, California
flavor profile: Strong notes of berry, mocha, and a hint of mint. Sinfully delicious.
tannins: They’re there, but they won’t hurt you.
approximate cost:


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