Is the 9/11 Wine Exploitative?

August 23, 2011 1:55 pm - Posted by Roland Hulme in Learn

Lieb Cellars of Long Island, NY, are producing a special 9/11 anniversary wine – but does that pay tribute to those we lost on September 11, 2011, or merely exploit their memory?

9/11 MEMORIAL Commemorative Merlot is described as: "a soft straw-yellow color, with dominant flavors of fresh green apples, tropical citrus and pineapples with a toasty vanilla finish."

To mark the tenth anniversary of the devastating terrorist attack that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000, a Long Island winery is releasing a special 2010 vintage Merlot, with some of the proceeds going to the 9/11 memorial being built at Ground Zero.

“Lieb Cellars has been a proud supporter of the 9/11 Memorial since 2004 through the SEPTEMBER’S MISSION FOUNDATION,” reads the website of Lieb Cellars, under the Wines for Good Causes tab. “We’re honored to produce this wine for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, to honor and remember the victims of the terror attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA.”

But not everybody finds this gesture touching. In fact, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, whose former New York eatery Les Halles was planning to serve the wine, condemned the release on his Twitter account.

He ranted: “Holy sh*t! That’s vomit inducing. What kind of piece of sh*t would create such a product? 911Wine?!!? Are you out your MIND?!! EPIC FAIL.” He also pledged to try and have the wine taken off the shelves of his old restaurant. “I no longer work there and have no stake but think I can sway management. Will fix if I have to buy it all and give every cent.”

New York City’s first responders where equally outraged, labeling the vintage “blood wine” and tweeting: “It’s never time for 9/11 Memorial & Museum Wine.” They pointed out the hypocrisy behind Lieb Winery pledging between 6-10% of the proceeds from their 9/11 wine to the 9/11 Memorial, whereas: “They donate 20% of profits from the memorial wine they made for their dog.”

But the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, who approved the wine, and Lieb Cellars themselves have so far refused to comment on the controversy; leaving some questions about whether this was a well-intentioned charitable act as they claim, or, as Bourdain described it, “grotesque, exploitative bullsh*t.”

The New York first responders complain: “Lieb Cellars gives 6-10% of the profit and keep 90-94% of it for themselves.” Yet on their website they plege 6-10% of the “sales” of the wine, not profits, so its difficult to know whether that refers to net or gross proceeds; a significant difference. Winemaking on Long Island is not known to have a magnificent profit margin, so 6-10% of “sales” might equal 100% of profits.

Similarly, the wine is being sold with the blessing and cooperation of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which means that whatever blame leveled at Lieb Cellars for “exploiting” the twin towers tragedy should be equally directed at that organization – already mired in controversy and criticism over its fundraising efforts.

So what do you think? Is a 9/11 tribute wine is appropriate? And would you consider buying it? Or is it just a cynical ploy to cash in on a national tragedy?

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