I’m not making this story up. Honest.
Vine Connections is a San Francisco-based importer specializing in wines from Argentina. You may be familiar with its excellent label, La Posta, which features several malbecs, a malbec-bonarda blend and an aromatic white based on torrontes. Vine Connections also sells two wines — a malbec and a chardonnay — labeled Budini, sourced from various small growers who use environmentally friendly sustainable viticulture practices.
Budini stands for “based upon dreams of individuals, not institutions.” A portion of the proceeds is donated to the Dominio del Plata Scholarship Foundation, which supports educational opportunities for the children of vineyard workers throughout Argentina. The wines sell for $13 and are made by Jose Lovaglio, son of famed Argentine winemaker Susana Balbo.
What could possibly be wrong with this picture?
Well, Vine Connections partner Ed Lehrman announced last week that, for the 2010 vintage, the wines will be called Bodini. Accordingly, the wine’s slogan will be changed to “based on dreams of individuals, not institutions,” so that the acronym continues to work. Why go through the expense and regulatory hassle to change a single letter in the name? Lehrman said the company was “strongly advised by some attorneys” to do so.
“We made the decision to change the Budini brand name because there is another alcoholic beverage company which aggressively protects its trademark that starts with the letters B-U-D,” Lehrman noted in an e-mail to reporters.
This sort of litigious overkill is not unprecedented in the wine industry. Last year, the producer of the excellent (and popular) Spanish Cava called Cristalino was forced to change its name to “Jaume Serra Cristalino” after lawyers from the Louis Roederer Champagne house complained that the name was too similar to their luxury bottling, Cristal. Would consumers really confuse Cristalino, which retails for $8, with Cristal, which sells for about $190?
But at least those two are sparkling wines. To think that consumers would confuse a wine named Budini with a beer named Budweiser would seem to be a new low in assuming that customers are idiots.
Lehrman said the focus behind Bodini wines won’t change. He and his colleagues at Vine Connections can laugh their way to the bank with the publicity over the forced name change. At least, that is, until the attorneys from Hooters hear about the advertising campaign, “This Bod’s For You!”