This holiday season, give the gift of a talking wine bottle that delivers lectures on Australian history. | On The Rocks | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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This holiday season, give the gift of a talking wine bottle that delivers lectures on Australian history.

Visually, the video resembles one of those talking paintings from Harry Potter, the torso relatively stiff as the head bobs and turns expressively.

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This holiday season, give the gift of a talking wine bottle that delivers lectures on Australian history. 

A new app called Living Wine Labels allows users to bring wine labels to life — or at the very least, animate them. Users open the app, point the camera at the wine label, and the inanimate image becomes a video. The app works with eight wine companies so far, including The Walking Dead wine, Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged wines, and Chateau St. Jean. But the original concept was developed for Australian wine producer 19 Crimes. 

Named for the number of offenses that could land a British criminal on a boat to Australia as punishment in the 18th and 19th centuries, each label of 19 Crimes features a real-life figure from history. When viewed with the Living Wine Labels app, the characters come to life and share stories from their lives. 

I bought my bottle of 19 Crimes – a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon – completely unaware of the app or the story behind it. I just saw the label and thought, "ahh crimes, nice." But a friend familiar with the series noticed it in my kitchen and opened my world to the adventures and exploits of Michael Harrington (the vineyard's cab-sav cover model). 

Harrington, as he explains from the label, was an Irishman in the 19th century who advocated for his homeland's independence from Great Britain. Along with five of his comrades, he was sentenced to prison for "treason and mutinous acts" and sent to the Western coast of Australia. Luckily, they managed to overtake their captors and escape.  

"Some may call me traitor, others, hero, but I, I call myself Michael Harrington, Frenian brother and part of the Fremantle Six," Harrington bellows. 

Visually, the video resembles one of those talking paintings from Harry Potter, the torso relatively stiff as the head bobs and turns expressively. The script and delivery have all the earmarks of a museum-produced educational video. If you're the type that stops at every video in history exhibits, you'll feel right at home with Living Wine Labels. 

If Australian history doesn't pair well with your drinking habits, it might be worth exploring other wines that work with the app. The Walking Dead bottle, for example, shows a zombie coming to life, breaking out of the bottle and smashing your phone screen. Neat. 

The app does have a gimmicky vibe (if you close your eyes, you can smell the digital ad agency where this was pitched). But in the spirit of the season, it never hurts to lower your standards a bit and enjoy a silly app and share it with your friends. It's gimmicky and pointless, but then again, so are all the best gifts. Happy hunting. 

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