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What's a four-letter word for wine? NH State Liquor Stores know

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 15. 2012 9:48PM

HOOKSETT - 'If You See Kay...'

That 1960s song (later covered by Aerosmith) and a widely known acronym for a coarse, four-letter vulgarity, is now on prominent display at selected New Hampshire State Liquor Stores.

The provocative wine label with a tattooed biker woman is among several similar labels being marketed to young men, who usually buy beer instead. But Mary Sartwell, who handles marketing for the commission, said she was unfamiliar with the label.

And clerks at some of the 18 stores - mostly in southern New Hampshire, where the wine is now sold - said they never heard of the expression or were too young to recall disruptive boys in class telling their teacher 'If You See Kay...' to the sound of raucous laughter.

But what they have figured out, along with wine makers, is a campaign to sell more product.

New Hampshire retail liquor sales for fiscal year 2013 are up almost 10 percent for fiscal year to date. That adds up to $9.8 million to the state. Wine sales have increased 9.3 percent with labels including Her Fault, Running with Scissors, Old Fart, Seven Deadly Zins and Fat Bastard.

Made by Jayson Woodbridge, the 'Kay' label uses the grapes of Lazio, Italy, to offer a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Primotivo.

Laura Shear is vice president of The Barn Group in California which represents Vintage Point, the sales and marketing arm for the wine. She said Jayson Woodbridge's irreverent personality inspired the label. It is targeted to a younger group. Woodbridge saw the painting of the tattooed woman, bought it, assumed rights and made it into a label, she said.

'Millennial wine drinkers are not so concerned about the luxury-focused wine. They want a wine they can enjoy every day. Also wine is increasingly paired with lifestyle pursuits. Like the biker babe with tattoos ... It would be successful with the biker community and those who enjoy tattoo art,' Shear said. 'It's opened up a new audience.'

Some reviewers say this particular wine, despite its 'atrocious label,' is terrific.

Christopher's Wine and Cheese calls it 'one of the world's worst wine marketing packages' but offers 'a shocking surprise' in flavor.

'It's a stunning and seductive wine. It has a rich California quality but a distinctive Italian flair and finish,' according to Englewood Wine Merchants.

'Kay' has a large display this week at the NH State Liquor Store on Route 95 in Hampton. The state's largest retail shop for liquor, it does over $1 million a day in business during the summer months.

Sandy Ratcliffe, retail manager, said the store has more than 60 bottles, 'but it hasn't sold ... It's pretty expensive for what it is,' she said noting that the $20-a-bottle brew is surrounded by 'good wines which cost $8 or $10.'

She said provocative names do sell to men who are looking to bring a gift to a party and have the added laugh value of the label. One popular example is the wine Fat Bastard.

'Men think it's funny,' she said. 'People usually buy it for its name as a joke,' she said, 'but they don't keep buying it.'

At the Manchester store at North Side Plaza, clerks said the bottle is on the shelf. It does not have its own display and is parked with the Italian wines.

In Lebanon at the Centerra Marketplace, clerks just got it on the shelf and had not sold a bottle as of Monday.

'The bottom line is we don't care what anybody thinks,' writes Vintage Point, which offers the wine as part of its portfolio from independent, boutique wineries, which includes Layer Cake and Arnold Palmer wine.

If You See Kay represents a philosophy, it states.

Joseph W. Mollica, chairman of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, was not available Monday for comment on the display.

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