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Is Bronco Capitalizing on Katrina Remembrance?

I’ve got a lot of respect for Fred Franzia, head of Bronco Wine Company. He’s a shrewd and iconoclastic businessman who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo. Did I mention he’s a shrewd businessman? Perhaps too much for his own good, I find myself thinking these days.

I received a fax last week of a press release from Bronco wines announcing the release of their new line of Fat Cat wines.

“New Orleans Inspired Fat Cat Wines Debut, August 2006” said the press release. “New Orleans is a place like no other. The indomitable spirit and culture of the Big Easy lives on and continues to be evident in the regional cuisine. To celebrate Louisiana’s unique Jazz music, culture and cuisine, Bronco Wine Company has launched the new “Fat Cat” varietal wines. With a whimsical label featuring a fat cat playing a jazz piano, these wines are meant to be fun, approachable, and shared at the table with friends.”

Apparently in addition to being fun, they’re also meant to be top of mind — released coincidentally on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. These wines are celebrating the place, but apparently not a penny of the profits from these wines will go towards helping aid the still devastated region. When I heard that, my jaw dropped.

Now I don’t know enough about these wines, nor their history to be able to level the accusation that Franzia is milking public sentiment and capitalizing on the tragedy to sell some wine. But I gotta say, this certainly could be interpreted that way without too much stretching of the imagination.

If that were actually true, it would be incredibly offensive and, in my mind, completely unethical.

What do you think? Am I reading too much into this?

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