Thursday, July 25, 2013

Le Petomane of Wine

Here is a piece from March 3, 2010. At the time, wine bloggers were actively soliciting samples from wineries, bragging of their imaginary abilities to sell a lot of wine. I doubt much has changed. And yet samples are still shipped to hapless and unqualified Poodles daily, the lazy winery Marketing Director's answer to what he's been doing lately. But my real motivation for writing the piece was probably as an excuse to mention one of history's greatest performers, Le Petomane. So, here, from the dark days of 2010, is my blog counterpart, Le Petomane of Wine:


I asked a friend at a small winery to allow me to read a typical note from a wine blogger asking for samples. He receives several solicitations every month, even more right before Christmas. Here is the letter he gave me.
 

To Whom It May Concern,

I know that it's going to be a little hard for you to believe that you're actually hearing from me. No one ever expected Ed McMahon to send them a letter from Publisher's Clearing House
either. And few women ever expected to get to sleep with Warren Beatty, though none of the thousands who did complained, even if they did have to put Vaseline in their eyes to make him look younger. It's just not every day you have contact with a celebrity. But I assure you it's true. I really am contacting you for samples of your wonderful wines. I know how much excitement this will cause you, and I certainly know that what's running through your mind now is the amount of sales a review from my wine blog, LePetomaneofWine, will generate, but I urge you to calm down, take a deep breath, good, now think about hiring some extra help for your shipping department before the surge.

As you undoubtedly have heard from other winery owners in your appellation, wine blogs are now the most important source for reviews and sales. Sure, once upon a time it was the media, but those days are long past. Wine lovers have caught on to the fact that 40% of the wineries Parker critiques are fictional, not to mention 100% of the numbers. And, of course, Parker is dead and his recent reviews were generated randomly by machines formerly used for tabulating Florida elections. Wine Spectator only makes money giving restaurants awards for their fictional wine lists in much the same manner every kid on the soccer team gets a trophy no matter how spastic they are. No one believes Wine Spectator numbers any more, anyway--not when you've got professional wine bloggers reviewing the very same crap! Do I even have to mention Wine and Spirits Magazine? Have their reviews ever sold wine? Have you ever met anybody, anywhere who subscribes to Wine and Spirits? If your leg had their circulation you'd have to have it amputated. No, my friend, more and more the wine buying public is turning to wine blogs, and my blog, in particular, for their wine buying advice. But you already knew this, and that's why your hand is shaking right now, as you read this, knowing that this is your chance. I know, I know, it's hard for me to believe too.

Mind you, I didn't ask for this sort of power and responsibility. I began my wine blog six months ago on a whim. Well, to be honest, so many people have urged me to write about wine, so many of my friends and family turn to me for wine advice knowing that I've learned a lot in the past six years I've been an avid wine drinker, I only felt it was fair to let everyone in on my expertise. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It saves them time and money. Honestly, we should apply the same logic to the Health Care Debate. Next time you need surgery, get it from a second year medical student--hell, they know plenty, certainly more than you, what could go wrong? See what I mean? Training and knowledge are vastly overrated. It's opinions that matter. Best of all, it's guaranteed positive opinions that matter! And, here's a bonus, on the off chance that I don't like your wine you can always say I wasn't really qualified to judge it--try saying that about Sunset Magazine! OK, bad example.

You may be wondering just what kind of audience, and how large an audience, my blog, LePetomaneofWine, attracts. Since I began my blog six months ago my numbers have increased tenfold from just my parents reading it! And if you look at my Facebook page you'll see that I have more than 300 friends, many of them part of the local prison population. I am a prolific user of Twitter, and after I taste your wine samples you will see the Twittersphere come alive with comments I post like, "Want a great Syrah tonight, check out my blog!" Wait! What was that noise? Oh, sorry, it's the sound of cash registers ringing--always happens when I Tweet. And what does all this cost you? The price of two bottles of each of your wines (one to review, one to sell on Craigslist) and shipping! I know, it seems too good to be true.

You must know that ignoring wine blogs is foolish. Everyone in the wine business knows this by now. Read any wine blog! It's right there in print--wine blogs are the most influential force in the wine business today. It's on the Internet, and you can't say it on the Internet if it's not true. Except on Facebook, which is all about lying. Why waste your time courting critics, risking the chance that someone will detect the many flaws in your wine? I'm not going to notice. The only flaw I notice in any wine is the price tag. Why waste all that time and money traveling to wine shops? They have no influence! Wine shops are just like gas stations, people go there to fill up, not get advice on how to drive! One mention on my blog and those wine shop buyers will be phoning you begging for wine! Don't be the one winery left behind by the Social Media revolution! And don't settle for any second-rate wine blogs either. OK, they're all second-rate, don't settle for any third-rate wine blogs.

I eagerly anticipate your case of samples. Please note that I do not guarantee I will review your wines on LePetomaneofWine. But you can trust that I will drink them.

Sincerely
Le Petomane

26 comments:

Thomas said...

I opened this Le Petomane post and could swear that I smelled H2S.

Joe Vino said...

This post has aged quite nicely.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Now we're talking, two men that have remarkable muscle control, You and and that brawny muscle between your ears and Pujol and his....well, you know. Loved this classic but nearly as much as I love You!

Samantha Dugan said...

Not nearly...meant not nearly. Had a near death experience, (not really but it felt like it for a minute...nearly peter'd myself) on my way to work, think it rattled my nerves. Or I'm lame. Either way what I meant to say is, Loved this classic but NOT nearly as much as I love You!

The Sommeliere said...

Ron, "...and yet samples are still shipped to hapless and unqualified Poodles daily."

You talkin' about me? I get oceans of unsolicited plonk over the transom that I have no interest in tasting, let alone reviewing in one of the hallowed publications I write for. Maybe the plonk is for my Labradoodles--after all they ARE part Poodle.

Steve Lay said...

HoseMaster:Is your tongue poking through your cheek? This post has not only aged quite nicely, it has improved with age. Your other commenters are better at commenting than I, as I can't get my arms around just where to start shooting my mouth off on this subject-Free wine for life to wine bloggers. Some days when I hear winery Marketing people expound, at a seminar, on wine marketing #101 through #601 I am in awe (well not really). Then I witness their stupidity (giving out wine via UPS, for reviews) and am amazed at the costs wineries assume (that adds to product cost calculations)to reach the masses who actually can't pick a "fine" wine from a "pedestrian" label.
My views: I once worked for a company that told employees they could not take anything for free if the vendor expected a positive review as a result of a the "freebie". "Buying Honesty." Sunday Schools teachers hang your heads.
Equally amazing is the strategy of wine pricing. Sometimes it seems the quality of the wine has nothing to do with quality but rather the hype. Thank you bloggers.
Do a search on Google or Bing for Wine Blogs and be amazed at the number.
Is there a wine blogger's union that negotiate benefits with wineries :-)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thomas,
It's my newest wine blog innovation--the SmellerNet. Open my blog any day and you can get that aroma. Why, it's like a pleasant visit to HELL. Care for a glass of Pinot Gris?

Joe Vino,
Well, it was old when I wrote it.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Sorry for the near death experience! Glad you're OK, Baby. Hope the scare didn't make you impersonate Le Petomane in your bucket seat.

I'm not sure why I thought this was a Best of HoseMaster. I just reread it and don't like it that much. Oh well.

I love you too! And thanks for calling me a musclehead.

Marlene Darling,
No, Love, I wasn't talking about you. You're obviously full of hap, and very qualified. And you're not soliciting plonk, it just finds you. Sort of how we met.

Thomas said...

Ron,

I thought the smell came from Le Petomane. Is he on your staff?

Thomas said...

You'll like this: I haven't posted on my blog, vinofictions, in months. Yesterday, I got a notices from adsense that $33 was deposited in my account for ads on the blog.

Here I am trying to earn a living with words, and now I learn that if I shut up I get paid.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Steve,
Wineries, or more accurately, marketing directors at wineries, don't care about the integrity of reviews, only that the reviews are positive. No better way to get positive reviews than to send them to people who want to get more free wine, and who won't be very critical for fear of the free wine drying up. Those reviews don't sell wine, of course, but they give the appearance to winery owners that the marketing department is doing a bangup job.

But because no one in their right mind buys a wine on the recommendation of someone with no talent or credentials, it's relatively unimportant. What's sad is that nothing has changed. Can't get a good rating from a qualified taster? Send it to Poodles! They happily pee with excitement, bark loudly in praise, and beg for more.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thomas,
Sure. Le Petomane is on my staff. He plays Reveille every morning to wake me up. Doesn't need a trumpet.

Lo Hai Qu loves him!

Nice work on the adsense. $33! More than I make in a billion years for HoseMaster. Though I'm guessing a lot of folks would chip in to make me shut up. Worth a shot.

Thomas said...

Could you please stop denigrating poodles. My standard is sensitive and I know he reads this blog when I am out of the room. It's the only way to explain the fact that each day, the cookies are erased--or eaten.

Marcia Macomber said...

Thomas, what a stink with that H2S! Nice call. Yes, this post has aged nicely. Florida elections (and seemingly everything else) are just as backwards as ever. Some things just don't change, but they do get better with age (which is more than I can say for the State of Florida).

I loved the bit about selling the second bottle on Craigslist. Love to read down Memory Lane...

Dean Tudor said...

Ron, I assume that the "pe" is silent, so it is actually "tomane", as in "Ptomaine Theater" (dinner shows).

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marcia Love,
You've been a loyal HoseMistress for many years. Thank you for that. When I look back at my Catalog of Crapulousness, I'm kind of amazed, and mildly depressed. But where I now get a few thousand hits on every post, in the bad old days I received around a hundred. Far more readers, but about the same Russets (common taters). So I don't feel bad about the reruns.

Except when I read them.

Dean,
The "P" is only silent in swimming pool.

Man, I love that old joke.

gabriel jagle said...

Ah, the joy of sending something you've spent months of your life working on - literally spilled blood sweat and tears over, and lost sleep worrying about - to some schmo who will spend ten seconds sipping it and deciding it doesn't have the structure they are looking for in a wine.

Samantha Dugan said...

Gabe,
Sort of like those poor folks on Christan Mingle or Match.com. Story of everyone's life isn't it? There will always be some schmo that thinks they know more. The issue here, as Ron clever disguised as humor, is the fact that these wineries send their wines to these bloggers that have 0 influence....even though their aunt Hildy and neighbors think they are swell writers. Winery is at fault there kid...

Steve Lay said...

You are right about poodles. But wiener dogs don't get the splash back.
Damn tough game isn't it? It is more romantic to think incest part of the industry!
Love your style.

Steve Lay said...

Typo correction:
incest "isn't" part of industry

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
I often wonder how wineries decide which bloggers to send their wines to for review. Obviously, professional people like Paul Gregutt and STEVE! are overwhelmed with samples. But you can go to the absolute worst blogs, and they are legion, and they are also receiving plenty of samples. Their reviews can be hilarious. But why send wines to someone with twelve readers and zero credibility? Because you have a sample budget and you're going to use it?

When Le Petomane of Wine was originally published, the wine industry believed that wine bloggers were going to move mountains of wine, or at least generate buzz. They still believe it, I think, only not quite as vehemently. I can't imagine a review in Pallet Press sells wine. I'm certain that a review on HoseMaster doesn't.

I'd love to hear how a marketing department chooses wine bloggers to send wine to. And how they justify the costs of shipping and wine to their employers.

Reviews of any kind of work are often painful, Gabe. One has to develop a thick skin when doing something creative. I've learned to enjoy the crap hurled at me--but I'm kind of strange that way.

Thomas said...

Ron,

Enlightenment for you:

I write a print article in which I mention some Portuguese and Italian wines--not a review; I don;t do reviews. The publisher also places the article online.

Next thing I know, two PR people send an email asking if I would like samples of Portuguese and Italian wines.

I respond by saying that I do not review wines, so sending me samples isn't going to be productive or cost-effective on their part.

That's ok, they tell me. We'll send them anyway.

I have no idea what they think that will accomplish, but I am certain that they have a budget to justify and sending wine to a wine writer helps to justify it.

Yes, Gabe, everyone is a critic, no matter whether you produce wine or words. You'll have to get used to that or give up winemaking.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thomas,
Yes, that sounds like how it works. I wonder how much of climate change is attributable to marketing "professionals" shipping endless wine to worthless addresses.

I write my occasional reviews (without scores) just because I like the intellectual exercise of tasting across a winery's offerings and trying to figure out what the hell they're doing. There is something about a winery's, or a winemaker's, approach to wine that interests me--the contrast, often, between what they say on their website and in their literature, and what is actually in the bottle. Plus, it gives me a chance to talk about myself, a subject I find endlessly fascinating.

But wineries and marketing people aren't exactly banging at the HoseMaster's door. Neither is the UPS guy. Probably a good thing...

Peter Bourget said...

Quite a humorous article, I think I’ll use it next time I solicit wine from a winery, maybe just a few changes in case the marketing manager reads your article.

On a more serious note, I hope I am not a poodle, maybe a collie or a labrador. My wife and I write a wine blog (pullthatcork.com) and while we may not influence a lot of people we do receive wine samples and we do write about them. We do not, however, ever solicit samples. It is our hobby and our passion and we just want to share that with others.

We are not industry experts or insiders but we are serious about wine. We are always searching for new wines, varietals and regions to try. We don’t have the years of experience many of you have and we don’t have access to many of the wines you do but we try. We do read as much as we can and will be getting our CSW and possibly WSET over the next year.

At what point do we graduate beyond being poodles and can be taken somewhat more seriously by people like you. After all, the more we learn about wine the more we enjoy it.

I don’t take offense at the poodle term by the way, sort of like the hooples on Deadwood. Until you have moved on you often don’t realize where you were.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Peter,
First of all, thanks for leaving a comment.

I don't limit the word "Poodle" to amateur bloggers. In my mind, it encompasses everyone with a wine blog, myself included. The Intergnats is a huge place, and there are thousands of wine blogs written by people for whom wine is a passion. I have no idea how many people read your blog, but I have about eleven reading mine. We're just lonely poodles barking for attention. I don't think I ever viewed it as insulting (I think I wrote that line four years ago), simply a satiric, mostly accurate, point of view.

It's not letters after your name that makes people take you seriously in the wine biz. No one here cares about any of that, and this is a very smart wine crowd. It's experience, and lots of it. It's reputation and integrity, neither of which is easy to obtain on the Internet. I don't think anyone took me seriously in the wine biz for about ten years of doing it professionally, full-time. They were mistaken, but they took me seriously.

For you, wine is a hobby. Bravo! I have hobbies I love too. But wine is not a hobby for me, it's been my profession for 35 years. Don't seek approval, Peter, just have fun with it. It doesn't matter what I think. I just play the Fool here at HoseMaster. Wine bloggers are an easy target, one I mostly avoid these days. Your blog is new, it seems. Keep it up for five years or more, post regularly, develop an interesting voice, don't just repeat what you read on Wikipedia and in winery marketing material, and you may just gain a following. But, trust me, be careful what you wish for.

As for not soliciting, when you have a Sample Policy, that's essentially soliciting. No big deal, enjoy the free wine.

I once had dinner with 1WineDoody, many years ago when he was pretty new, and I asked him about his experience with wine--had he ever tasted the First Growths, Yquem, Chave Hermitage, Rayas, DRC... Mostly he hadn't. With wine, one has to know where the bar is set. It's perspective one gains with lots of experience, and luck. When he confessed, at the time, that he hadn't had most of those wines, my response was, "Why would I take your wine advice when you don't know what the great wines in the world taste like? It would be like taking dating advice from a thirteen-year-old." I think that might answer your question, too.

Again, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Don't be a stranger.

Peter Bourget said...

Thanks for the advice. I see your point about the Sample Policy, it does say we are "expecting" at some point. Actually I was quite surprised the first time someone wanted to send me samples. But I accepted them anyway.

I have had some first growths, including Yquem, but not enough to where I can make an informed opinion. I am lucky to have a mentor that owns a wine store and has been collecting since the 60's. He often shares what is in his cellar.

I'll stick around and toss in the occasional comment. Sometimes they may be somewhat naive but I rarely take criticism personally so I am not easily discouraged.

One thing I will mention, for my wife and I, writing a wine blog has made us pay a lot more attention to the wines we do drink. It has also encouraged us to learn more than we would have otherwise.

Cheers!

Nick Harman said...

I have to say the petomane writes a good pitch, shame most wine writers don't have his energy and, dare I say, wit?

Many people read to be entertained as much as informed, and I think I would enjoy reading his pieces.

Would I be guided in what to buy? Once I got to know his likes and dislikes maybe. Same as any critic, if they are consistent then they can be a useful yardstick.