Sexy girls and sommeliers: an Italian recipe for controversy

Anyone who has ever been to Italy (and especially anyone who’s ever watched an Italian primetime variety show) knows that sexy girls often appear there in the strangest places.

The models are called veline (a word that doesn’t come from velo or veil but rather the French vélin, akin to vellum, i.e. fine parchment obtained from calves’s skins; it was first used in its current meaning in the late 80s on the show Striscia la notizia where, by metonym, it was used to denote the models who presented cue cards, called veline in Italian editorial parlance, to the show’s stars).

The Italian Sommelier Association’s (AIS) use of a velina (left) in one of its promotional campaigns stirred controversy late last year (December 27) when one of Italy’s top wine bloggers, Alessandro Morichetti, pointed out that the model is holding her glass incorrectly. The story was picked up on Monday of last week by Luciano Ferraro, a blogger for one of Italy’s leading newspapers, the Corriere della Sera. “The veline sommeliers have arrived,” he wrote.

Later in the day, in a post entitled “AIS, Good Taste, and Blow-Up Dolls,” Laura Rangoni, blogger for one of Italy’s leading glossy magazines, L’Espresso, wrote that she was offended by the campaign’s sexual and body-image implications, saying that she was going to cancel her membership in the body (no pun intended). The “good taste” of the association had sunk to new lows, she wrote, especially when the campaign centered around the slogan: good taste: either you have it or you don’t (playing on the assonance between the second personal singular of the verb avere, hai, and the association’s acronym AIS).

By Thursday, a spokesperson for the AIS issued a press release in which he reproached Morichetti for posting false information and Rangoni and Ferraro for alleged sloppy journalism.

It’s enough to drive you to drink!

Another AIS controversy unfolded late last year when the body ended its longstanding relationship with top Italian wine blogger Franco Ziliani, who, for more than three years, curated a recurring “WineWebNews” column for the association’s site, a monthly round up of wine blogging from Italy and around the world. It enjoyed a wide following in the Italian enoblogosphere, in part because it offered readers a view beyond Italy (Franco synopsized and translated salient quotes from English-language blogs). As southern Italian wine blogger Luciano Pignataro observed, the move came after the AIS hired ex-Gambero Rosso editor Daniele Cernilli as its head of marketing. (De gustibus non est disputandum.)

“An Aristotelian syllogism could be applicable in this case,” wrote Luciano. “Cernilli is named as director of marketing. Cernilli detests Franco Ziliani. Cernilli rubs out Franco Ziliani.”

Inspired by a tide of appeals from readers, Franco has relaunched the column on his own blog.

My goodness… It’s enough to drive you to drink… and blog…

7 Responses to Sexy girls and sommeliers: an Italian recipe for controversy

  1. Velina is my new favorite Italian word :-)

  2. Kyle says:

    Jeremy, if you primary asset starts with a B and isn’t brains, you’ve still gotta eat. Posing dressed in front of a camera is a lot better than some of the things people thus afflicted end up doing. She at least, under Mr. Berlusconi (there’s that B again) could have gone into politics. Not now, however…

  3. docSavino says:

    really sticky situation for Ais and Wsa

  4. Hande says:

    a tiny little clarification: Ais never actually used these pics (bcs it wasn’t only that velina), they were accidentally published by the ad agency. Though it *was* approved by them, so maybe it is almost as bad. did you see the otthers?

  5. Che mondo sarebbe senza le veline! (E non dimentichiamo le letterine).

    I’ll never forget the first time I saw Elisabetta Canalis dancing with il Gabibbo. Altri tempi…

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