Blue Nun is a German wine brand launched by the company H. Sichel Söhne (Mainz) in 1923 with the 1921 vintage, and which between the 1950s and 1980s was a very popular international brand. For most of its existence, Blue Nun was a single German wine, which until the late 1990s was classified as a Liebfraumilch, but the name is now used for a whole range of wines of various origins. When it was created, the label was designed as a consumer-friendly alternative to the innumerable German wine labels with Gothic script and long, complicated names. With the creation of its UK office in 1927, Sichel targeted the export market. Beginning in the 1950s, Blue Nun was advertised as a wine that could be drunk throughout an entire meal, thereby eliminating the often intimidating problem of wine and food pairing. Blue Nun can be said to have been the first wine to have been produced and effectively marketed with an international mass market in mind.
After World War II, the brand became spectacularly popular in the United Kingdom and the United States, selling for the same price as a second growth red Bordeaux wine. At its peak of popularity in 1984–1985, annual sales in the US were 1.25 million cases, with another 750,000 cases sold elsewhere.
From the late 1980s, and more so in the 1990s, easy-drinking semi-sweet German wines began to decline in popularity. Consequently, the brand's popularity declined, and the wine began to be perceived as tacky and dated. This change was reflected in the drink of choice of a popular fictional over-the-hill British television and radio presenter, Alan Partridge. However, sales increased after Blue Nun was purchased by the Mosel-based German family firm Langguth which bought the previous owners, Sichel, in 1996. They repositioned the brand, reclassifying it from a Liebfraumilch to a regular Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA), changing the grapes from Müller-Thurgau to 30% Riesling, and making it less sweet. It remains relatively low in alcohol at 9.5%.
From 2001 on, Langguth also embarked on a brand extension, and has introduced several other wines under the Blue Nun name, including a German Riesling ice wine, a Languedoc Merlot and a Spanish rosé. Sales in 2004 rose by 11% in the UK, but from a low base.
In 2009, Blue Nun launched Blue Nun Gold, a sparkling wine which contains flakes of 22-carat gold. It was hoped the drink will appeal to young women drinkers, and will help position the brand differently.
References to Blue Nun in popular culture and media
Afro Celt Sound System, in their song "Rise Above It" from the album Seed, refer to dancing at gigs with Blue Nun. According to the lyrics of the song, heartburn going cheap is the reward for dancing at gigs with a Blue Nun.
The Beastie Boys album Check Your Head includes a musical interlude called "The Blue Nun", in which a narrator describes a party held in the comfortable study in Peter Sichel's New York townhouse, in which the guests compliment the wine. Peter Sichel was chairman of the Blue Nun company until it was sold in 1995.
On The Beatles song "Long, Long, Long" off the White Album, rattling noises by a Blue Nun wine bottle are heard as a result of a bottle's resting on top of a Leslie speaker, which began to vibrate when Paul McCartney played a certain note on the Hammond organ. It is accompanied by a Ringo Starr drum roll.
In issue #6 of Deadpool Corps, Lady Deadpool warns Brank, talent scout for the Blue Buccaneer/The Champion, "If your spaceship is all shag carpeting and Barry White and Blue Nun on ice, you're in big trouble. I'm not looking for that kind of evening."
Heston Blumenthal experimented with carbonating Blue Nun using a Sodastream machine in one episode of his novelty cuisine series Heston's Feasts. The programme showed interviews which gave the impression that people either preferred the carbonated wine to genuine champagne or could not tell the difference.
On the BBC television series Life on Mars (series two, episode four) Blue Nun is mentioned as the wine which will be served at a party hosted by a wife-swapping couple of which the sleazy husband is a murder suspect.
In the television series Phoenix Nights (series 1, episode 4), Brian Potter offers his love interest some Blue Nun.
Blue Nun is comedy character Alan Partridge's wine of choice. Andrew Neil, the host of the satirical current affairs program This Week, makes frequent references to Blue Nun, as one of a number of running jokes in the series.
Jeremy Clarkson offered samples of Blue Nun to Germans on his mini series Jeremy Clarkson: Meets the Neighbours (series 1, episode 3.) Clarkson pressed them, demanded answers as to why Germany would produce this terrible wine only for export, and subject the rest of the world to it. All but one of the people interviewed were repulsed by the taste.
Blue Nun is mentioned in the film While You Were Sleeping, when a character asks his father if he "give that bottle of Blue Nun you got" to his probation officer.
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