When I first read this story, I was sure it was a hoax, but now I am not sure. According to wine sites, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has denied a permit to import Château Haut Gay (AOC Bordeaux Supérieur) because the label is “an incentive to debauchery.” The wine’s bright orange label featured two verses of the poem “L’Ame du Vin” (“The Soul of Wine”) by 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire. While I have few remaining illusions as to government work, this one remains unbelievable. If this is a hoax, it is brilliant. If it is true, it is a national disgrace.
The poem is part of the famous collection of Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Notably, the translation does not appear on the labels, which means only French speakers would be debauched.
While Baudelaire was viewed as pretty risqué in his time, he is considered a master today. Here is his corrupting poem:
One evening, the spirit of wine sang in the bottles
Man, towards you I cry, o my dear deprived
Beneath my prison of glass and my ruby red wax
A song full of light and brotherhood.
Then, inside you I will fall, as fruity ambrosia
Precious seed thrown by the eternal Sower
So that our loving union will bear poetry
Which will shine forth towards God, like a rare flower.
The ATF gave no explanation for what was offensive in the poem. There is no appeal from such decision, which itself is something that the Congress should look into. It is bizarre that an agency decision would not be subject to review in such cases.
As someone not familiar with the label, I was at first suspicious of the name of the owner: Guillaume de Tastes. But it appears that that is a legit name.
I am trying to confirm this story with ATF and I am looking for any other source from any of our readers. Notably, the ATF press representative has not yet gotten back to me after I asked if this was a hoax. Obviously, if this story is true (I pray it is a hoax), someone needs to be fired at the ATF.
For the story, click here.