by Treve Ring | As Charlie Hebdo returns to newsstands this week, it’s reaching the hands of millions who are leafing through the cartoons of the slain contributors, still alive through their work on the printed page.
I had never seen a copy of the publication, or even heard of Charlie Hebdo before last week, before keying silently Je Suis Charlie in solidarity with people who share opinions for a living, and in honour of the people who no longer can.
I was, however, familiar with some of the fallen artists’ work in a different medium – a medium that also reached countless people. Countless wine lovers, that is.
As Wine Spectator’s Robert Camuto wrote yesterday, three of the slain cartoonists were France’s most outrageous wine label designers. In his touching report, Camuto details the friendship that led to a 40 year cartoon commission of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.
“They were my friends,” explains Bordeaux winemaker Gérard Descrambe, 65. For more than 40 years, Descrambe commissioned Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and others to make eye-catching labels that varied from drunken to suggestive to sexually explicit humour. “Their spirit was to laugh at everything and expose the biggest bullshit in the world. And they were killed by the biggest act of bullshit.”
More than 50 provocative labels have been released over the years, a jovial rarity in a traditional, conservative region like Bordeaux. “It was always my philosophy to have fun with wine,” Descrambe says. “There are too many people in Bordeaux who don’t know how to have fun with wine. They make it too serious. Like a rite.”
Or take it too serious. Like a cartoon. à votre santé Charlie.