De Long Wine Moment

 

March 31st, 2009

PLAYMOBIL WINE BAR STIRS OUTRAGE

Robert Parker, Andrea Immer Robinson, Jancis Robinson and Gary Vaynerchuk hanging out at the Playmobil wine bar.

Robert Parker, Andrea Immer Robinson, Jancis Robinson and Gary Vaynerchuk hanging out at the Playmobil wine bar.

If you’ve noticed your 5 year old swirling and sniffing his/her juice glass, you may want to pay attention to this story.

Playmobil Wine Bar, one of Playmobil’s best sellers since it was introduced last fall, has hit a nerve with parents and trade groups nationwide. The Zirndorf, Germany-based company has previously courted controversy with Bank Robbers and Gangster play sets but may have taken it a bit too far this time.

The set includes miniature bottles, glassware and figures based on wine personalities Jancis Robinson, Andrea Immer Robinson, Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert M. Parker, Jr. in a relaxed wine bar setting. The details of the licensing deals are unclear, however, since none of the parties were willing to disclose terms.

While the wine industry has increasingly been targeting Millennials, who of course are above the legal drinking age, the Playmobil set has some community leaders up in arms. Not missing an opportunity to look good and lead in the outrage has been spokesperson Bruno Ashwip of the powerful Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association (WSWA).

“We’re really concerned about this one since they’re using wine celebs to get to the kids. The likenesses are pretty uncanny, I mean, the Robert Parker figure is a lot thinner than the real one, but they totally nailed his hair. Don’t tell me that children don’t know this. It’s just another reason that we shouldn’t allow state to state shipping of wine.”

The WSWA has gone so far as to propose legislation that would block interstate shipping of this toy. “We already have WSWA-friendly UPS drivers confiscating this item,” added Ashwip.

The calm at the center of this controversy are the wine celebrities themselves. They all seem to be oblivious to the outrage and much more concerned with advancing their personal brands.

Reached by phone at her London home, Jancis Robinson’s only apparent worry is that Immer Robinson and she are erroneously listed as the “Robinson sisters” on the packaging. “We are not sisters” was the terse response from the usually gracious Brit wine maven.

Immer Robinson initially laughed off the sister error has “good PR” but later admitted in a long-winded explanation that they were indeed not sisters. She was then off to teach a class of toddlers juice and cheese pairing at the French Culinary Institute where she is Dean of Liquid Studies.

Vaynerchuk, who proudly displays toy action figures in his popular Wine Library TV webcasts was ecstatic almost to the point of incomprehension. “This toy has the thunderTM! My man is wearing his VayniacTM wrist band! Link it up, MottTM! We’re going to DiggTM this baby to #1 on AmazonTM!”

The situation is probably best summed up, however, by the towering Parker. Over the phone he simply offered a boozy refrain from a Bob Dylan song: “The times, they are a changin’.”

A Year of Wine