Monday, February 13, 2017
Hi, I’m Madeline Puckette, co-creator of “Wine Folly”—I’m the Folly part. I’m honored to be here as one of the faculty members for the Napa Valley Wine Writers’ Symposium, which is a dream come true for me. I’m at Meadowood with some of the best writers about wine that are still alive, and Evan Goldstein! I’m going to teach you how to become successful in the world of wine writing. It’s much easier than you think! Most of you probably believe you have to know something about wine and that you have to be a writer to be successful as a wine writer. Oh, that’s just silly. You don’t need to know about cows and be a boxer to be a really great bullfighter! I’m living proof you don’t need either qualification to be a wine writer.
The secret is that you just make things SIMPLE! Here’s the problem with so many wine blogs and wine books. There are just too many facts in them. I don’t bother with facts. Well, not fact facts. And the fact-adjacent facts I write, I use very infrequently. I mean, most of the people who read my blog and buy my books are not like this fancy-schmancy Symposium. They don’t have faculties. You can bet on that. So you can count every wine fact from the past two years of my blog, and it’s not even as many as there are in two pages of “The Wine Bible!” And whose book is #1 on Amazon? Not that wacky redhead’s! See what I’m sayin’? There’s no demand for facts in the wine world. Doesn’t that just make you happy?
Let me give you an example. I wrote a piece recently about Napa Valley, where we are right now! Isn’t this place just amazing? Did you know that Napa Valley produces some of the best Cabernet in the whole world? You would if you’d read my blog. Here’s the opening paragraph of my recent post about this wonderful Napa Valley.
“Had it not been for the overambitious visions of just a few individuals, Napa Valley might have never become one of the most important wine regions in the world. When Napa Valley was only just getting started, America’s passion for Bordeaux wines was feverishly high, so much so that even the first lady at the time, Jackie O., was known to sip Château Haut-Brion Blanc in the White House. Napa’s vintners no doubt observed Bordeaux’s success and looked to the region for inspiration.”
So see what I did there? 84 words in search of a single fact! This is the new model for successful wine writing. You only have to be truth-adjacent and fake-confident. Now, truth-adjacent is not like alternate truth, not at all. Alternate truth is when I say I’m a sommelier. I’m not a sommelier, but if I say it often enough, now it’s alternate truth! Truth-adjacent is saying “When Napa Valley was only just getting started…the first lady at the time, Jackie O….” Isn’t it funny how she was Jacqueline Kennedy when she was in the White House, but I called her Jackie O.? See? Truth-adjacent! But what’s really cool is how I sort of made up that Napa Valley was just getting started in 1962 when Jackie O. was in the White House, like a year before her husband Aristotle was assassinated by some gassy troll named Lee Harvey Weinstein. This 1962 fact-adjacent will be news to a lot of people at BV and Stony Hill and Louis Martini! But it just doesn’t matter. Facts are so last Millennium. And truth died with the birth of the Internet.
There I did it again! Truth didn’t die with the birth of the Internet. But I wrote it anyway. It’s not true any more than “Napa’s vintners no doubt observed Bordeaux’s success and looked to the region for inspiration.” I just put the “no doubt” in there because that makes it sound truer! Writing is so easy! Every paragraph I write is like this. I just think things in my head that sort of make sense and I write them down. If our great President had a wine blog, it would be just like mine. Only he doesn’t drink, and I drink a lot. But that wouldn’t matter! I mean, look, you can appeal to people who care about truth and insight, or you can sell yourself as a troubled high school kid to the lowest common denominator. Guess who wins?
Maybe the best thing you can do for yourself as a wine writer is to say that you write for beginners. Here’s a fun fact. Consider this. Beginners never catch your mistakes! And, you don’t have to do a lot of research, or really understand much about your subject, because, if you did, you might end up talking over their heads! How condescending is that? On “Wine Folly,” I never talk over anybody’s head. I just figure, hey, they’re here at my blog to read about Napa Valley Cabernet, how smart can they be? Learning about wine from “Wine Folly” is like learning about music from an organ grinder’s monkey. You hear the same crappy song over and over, and all I want is for you to put some money in my little outstretched hand.
You want to be like me and be a really successful wine writer? OK, it’s easier than you think, and here it is, broken down into three easy suggestions, just like I do it on my wildly famous wine blog!
1. Dumb it down!
Studies have no doubt shown that wine lovers don’t like too many facts, and the ones they like don’t have to be true. Make it simple. Say, “Oak is like a seasoning.” Most people know what a seasoning is. Oak is a tree. Poison oak goes really well with tomato juice.
2. You only have to be fact-adjacent!
Here’s the best thing about wine. It’s so subjective. Subjective means there are no facts. Even when there might be, it’s not your problem. There are already a lot of books with facts in them, anyway. They don’t sell. Use your creativity. How about, “Wine is at the highest point it’s ever been in the past 47 years.” There. That’s a fact. Make ‘em prove you’re wrong, but no doubt you’re not.
3. Everybody’s a beginner!
And it’s not your goal to improve their wine knowledge, because, first of all, you can’t. You just can’t. But armed with the truth-adjacent facts you give them, they’ll feel empowered. They can tell their friends, “Jackie O. no doubt inspired Napa Valley overly-ambitious people to make great Cabernet.” When their wine friends tell them they’re stupid, they can say they read it on “Wine Folly” and that certainly proves that.
Monday, February 6, 2017
Finally, Ladies, a new wine credential that will take the Miss out of wine misogyny. FemSomm! FemSomm is an idea whose time has come. Tired of being 10% of the ManSomm population? Weary of mentors who undress to help you study for the “Service” Exam? Ready to be treated as an equal in the competitive wine world? Then it’s time you began to study for your F.S.! FemSomms are the next big thing in wine!
It's about time that women had their own wine credential. Men have had Master Sommelier and Master of Wine all to themselves for decades. Oh sure, there are a few token women with MS or MW credentials, rather like there are a few Mexicans in the NBA. But maybe there needs to be a sorority to go with the fraternity that is the wine business.
You can read about some of the courses offered, testosterone-free, by the Court of Female Sommeliers by jumping over to Tim Atkin's distinguished site. Please leave your studied and witty comments over there, or, if you must, wrap them in a powder blue Tiffany box and leave them here.
I probably should have been a lot harsher in this piece. Maybe next time...
TIM ATKIN MW
Monday, January 30, 2017
There are too many fucking wineries. Why do we need so many wineries? Really. All of you who are planning to start a winery some day, or your own label, DON’T! You’re not that good at making wine. I know you think you are, but you’re not. Sorry. Somebody had to tell you. The world does not need your take on single-vineyard, own-rooted Mondeuse. No one cares about your dedication to rescuing obscure varieties from the trash heap. Wow, you discovered Abouriou! Goody for you. Just leave it where it is. Let it go. Walk away. You’re not an artisan. Really. You’re not. Winemaking is not an art. Sculpture is an art. Ballet is an art. Balloon animals—art! Winemaking is an art about as much as vacuuming is an art. It may seem creative to the person doing it, but, really, it’s just about attachments and sucking. How is it an art? You take grapes, ferment them, stay out of the way (minimal intervention is how all the great wines are made, right?), do a bunch of lab work and the bottle the stuff. If that’s art, then so is cooking meth. At least people who are lousy at cooking meth eventually blow themselves sky high. Man, if only every new lousy winemaker did the same.
I’m not just talking about California here. The whole damn world has too many goddam wineries. STOP! Just stop. It’s getting ridiculous. Who’s going to buy all this crap? Yes, sure, there are a lot more stupid sommeliers than ever before, but not THAT many. Importers! Stop bringing in more and more wineries from Corsica, or the Canary Islands, or any other foreign countries like Idaho. We don’t want them. Really. Listan Prieto? No! Alicante Bouschet? Why? Don’t make me choose. Listan vs. Ali? Not exactly heavyweights.
So why not start eliminating wineries? Every wine publication has an article every year with a title like, “New Wineries to Watch.” Fuck. I hate those articles. Look back at those articles from five or ten years ago. Those wineries were not worth watching! I have enough wineries to watch. I can’t find the time to drink the wines from wineries with track records hundreds of years old. I don’t want any New Wineries to Watch. Know what I want? New Wineries to Watch Fail! That’s an article I want to read. I go to wine tastings. I taste wines from lots of new wineries. Most of them should fail! Really. I mean it. And everyone knows it. They don’t have a damned clue how to make good wine. So who told them they could? Oh, but winemaking is an art, and art has room for everything! No, it fucking doesn’t. Your wine isn’t Rembrandt, it’s Dogs Playing Poker. Stop opening new wineries! Start a brew pub, or a make cider, just like all the other idiots. Just not wine. Please.
I took the time to select a few new wineries that should be eliminated. Every big project begins with a few small steps. With a little effort and a lot of determination, in just a few years we will have a more manageable wine scene. Fewer wineries equals better wines. Here are a few of the wineries I’d like to see fail. This is just the first cut. Let’s see how cleanly we can make it.
Champagne En Les Derrières
Just what the world needs. Another Grower Champagne. For the love of God, stop bringing in more Grower Champagnes. There’s too many already! Look, I’m as sick of all the Grandes Marques as you are. Mumm, Moët, Zeppo, Gummo, Chico… And what about Veuve Clicquot? Is there a worse Champagne? It’s like drinking sparkling Lemon Pledge. Or lightly flavored fart water. So, yes, bring on the Grower Champagnes. But there are enough here already! More than enough! How different are they really? Not very. Oh yes, for years this Domaine sold their grapes to the top Champagne houses, but now you can taste the wines they make for themselves! I don’t want to. Really. I don’t. Just because a guy used to sell his oats to make Cheerios doesn’t mean I want to taste his breakfast. Champagnes are hard to tell apart. We don’t need a hundred of them, any more than we need a hundred different waffles. Let’s hope that Champagne En Les Derrières will be a New Winery to Watch Fail!
A Donkey, A Goat, A Chimp, and A Stoat
Fuck. No more wineries that sound like the beginning of a joke. And, really, seriously, no more domestic wineries making Natural Wines. We don’t even know what that is! Nobody knows. It’s buried beneath all the goddam shit from lactating cows. Let’s be clear. Natural wines are not better wines. And we don’t need any more! I’m not kidding. We really don’t. You just got out of UC Davis, you can barely make bulk wine, and now you’re going to show the world what wine should taste like? Bury it in the ground like qvevri other asshole. And stop telling me it’s better for the planet. Or for my health. That’s stupid. Sulfites won’t kill you. Gum arabic won’t kill you. Nothing added to wine will kill you. The goddam alcohol will kill you! Lower alcohols don’t help! It’s like eating only small orders of McDonald’s french fries to lose weight. And better for the planet? Listen, do me a favor. Stop driving hundreds of miles to tend those natural, organic vineyards in your gas guzzling, piece of shit Ford F-150. Please, don’t ship me yet another fucked-up, faulty, Natural Wine from the Jura on a refrigerated container ship spewing endless pollutants into the ocean, that’s dropped off in a harbor, trucked in another climate-ruining vehicle to a warehouse, that is then featured in the newsletter of the local “Feel Better About Yourself” wine bar for the local wine bozo to order by the glass. Enough. It’s a charade. Nothing about wine is natural. Humans make it! Fuck. So let’s see if A Donkey, A Goat, A Chimp and A Stoat can be our New Winery to Watch Fail!
Prick Family Vineyards
Just what the world needs. Another $200 Cabernet. Well, it’s actually a $40 Cabernet that sells for $200, but you get the idea. When Rich Prick, and his wife Lady Ima, decided to move to Napa Valley and start yet another cult winery, they had dreams of being the next Harlan Estate. Which is like moving to Hollywood to be the next Rudolph Valentino—you’re eighty years too late, for fuck’s sake. Who’s buying ridiculously expensive Napa Valley Cabernet? Sommeliers with daddy issues? The ones who have seven different Cakebread Cabernets on their list and still wet the bed? Nobody wants expensive Napa Cabernet anymore. And there’s too freakin’ many of them as it is! There are too many Rich Pricks in the wine world, we don’t need any more. What’s next? The founder of Tesla making $200 Elon Muscadet? Amazon’s founder making fucking Mencia that’s $250 under the Jeff Bierzos label? Christ, like the FaceBook CEO says, there’s a Zucker berg every minute. I’m sick of it. I hope every Cabernet over $200 fails, but let’s start with the new Prick Family. Though, damn the luck, I think they’re serving it at most of the White House dinners.