Book Review: Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape

By Andrew Barrow

Peter May's Marilyn Merlot and the Naked GrapeFrom Cleavage Creek through to Marge ‘n’ Tina, this fun little book covers them all. Labels are the theme but the author, Peter May, goes further and adds snippets of info behind the wine — and many have such fascinating stories to tell.

So we learn that Cleavage Creek donates proceeds to breast cancer research, while the Marge ‘n’ Tina is a take on Malbec (Marge) and Tempranilla (Tina). Silly but fun.

Peter May is a friend of mine and mentioned he was working on a book many months ago. I gave one of those ‘oh really’ reactions, but now how envious am I! Peter has long maintained an online collection of odd wine labels under the banner. His passion for the obscure, the fun, and the oddities of the wine world really jumps from the page. He has selected some incredible works of art in addition to some truly atrocious examples of the genre. With some you just have to ask how many bottles they sold under such ghastly packaging.

It is a great little book — even for me as a more knowledgeable wine consumer — and I am not just saying that as I know Peter personally. Each page offers up many a interesting fact. Did you know for example that the d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie (Australia) is named after a pet Kookaburra, or that the Three Choirs Pheonix (from England) was the first commercially produced wine from a cross of Seyval Blanc and Bacchus?

Or how about that a Beaujolais labeled Pisse-Dru reads as “pissed” to us in the UK (meaning being drunk) but is actually “thick piss” in French being a winemakers boast about a product he is particularly proud of?

It is all great fun and nicely produced too. Each wine comes with a description, a label and a short tasting tasting note from Peter. The whimsical, the bizarre and the downright odd are all covered.

Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape (ISBN 1-59474-099-2) Available from for $11.02 and for 7.25 RRP 10.99.

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