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Arts & Life

Michigan's sexy sparkling wine has an interesting history

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FLICKR USER MSTEPHENS7 / FLICKR
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There’s a delicious backstory to how the Michigan sparkling wine, “Sex,” sold under the M. Lawrence brand, got its head-turning name.

It happened during the 1980s, Hour Detroit magazine’s chief wine and restaurant critic Chris Cook said, when Larry Mawby, owner of the Mawby winery was “fretting around for names for certain things.”

In that day, the trick was getting names and images for wine labels approved by the somewhat “prudish” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

“At that time, they were being very picky about certain things,” Cook said.

That’s why when Mawby was approved by the bureau for the name “Sex,” he “almost fell out of his chair.”

“He wanted to see if he could tweak the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with something odd,” Cook said. “So he applied for a label with the name ‘Sex.’ He had no use for it. He wasn’t going to do anything with it. He just thought it’d be fun to do it.”

Caught off guard by the surprise approval, Mawby faced the task of finding the sparkling wine, which he didn’t yet make, to fill his bottles.

“So he runs around Northern Michigan, trying to gather anything that he can to make sparkling wines so he can fill the first year, and he fills the first year, and that was it,” Cook said. “‘Sex’ came into being and it is still around today. It’s sold nationally. And it’s become a common part of our existence.”

Cook said Mawby is highly thought of around the globe “as one of the great American sparkling winemakers,” known even better in Europe than the United States.

“Europeans really see his wine as being similar to what they’re doing, but with a ‘North American twist,’” Cook said.