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.
"Truth-adjacent" is a real winner in the battle of fake news...Ron, I hear you are up for as appointment to the White House by 45 -- national wine security advisor (in charge of hoods and cages and racks and cellars and broken wine bottles and liaison with the BATF with all those bullets used at bottles in target practice.
Way to go man!! I knew you'd succeed!!
Now just go get rid of him...
I thought, "He's making that up surely". Until I Googled it and found it word for word. Please forgive this humble reader for ever doubting your eminence! I am in awe of your capability to find this 'stuff' (Don't want to get banned for using the word I'm thinking.)
Great stuff Ron.. thought you'd be amused that you were right next to Vornography in my email this morning..
M. Puckett is coming to Napa? Think I will go to New Zealand. Planning to fly down, but maybe have to float on my new Kontiki raft is the dam breaks. Not worried about getting back in when the water level drops back. My Green Card is in order and they would not keep Green Card holders out--would they?
By the way, for any of you, besides me, who are thinking about bugging out permanently down under, I will offer free consultations when I get back. I think it will depend on how much Marlborough Sauv Blc I can drink.
Do me next, please!
Trump might want me, but I don't work for teetotalers. Or buffoons. Though if he steals my Rich Prick Vineyards name, I'll sue him.
Wine Folly defies belief. But she's apparently a genius at marketing--at least to the bewildered and gullible. That she is part of the faculty at the NV Symposium makes me laugh. That her book is #1 wine book on Amazon makes me tired.
Yeah, Alderpated and I are dating now.
Have fun in New Zealand. Say Hello to Kiwi Peter Thiel for me while you're there. I'm pretty sure they'll let you back in the country, the question is whether New Zealand will let you out. Hey, if you need New Zealand wine advice, I'm sure Wine Folly has a guide to New Zealand wines. She loves the Zins.
Nope. And why?
Funny, I've never heard of either, Ms Puckette or Wine Folly, but I loved reading this hilarious presentation...thanks for passing it on HoseMaster of Wine!
Lucky for you you never heard of Wine Folly. I'm surprised you heard of me.
"Fact-adjacent", what a fantastic euphemism! Next thing you know you'll start seeing Trump, etc start using it :) I'm looking forward to seeing a trend started by you show up elsewhere. What a coup that'll be for you! =D
Awesome send up. Always love to see your latest in my inbox.
I found her blog in which she states: "Besides being a certified sommelier, my personal education include advanced seminars, tastings, and traveling to wine regions of the world." She lists her credentials as "Certified Sommelier with Court of Masters." I know about the Court of Master Sommeliers, but the Court of Masters? Same thing?
Hmmmmm, advanced seminars, check; tastings, check; traveling to wine regions of the world,check...I am so close to being a somm!
It really is like Pixie Wine Trump although her shtick was old long before we got Ole Orange Face in office.
Myself and others point out that she's wrong all the time, but it's the same thing as Trump, people just want to believe that the abyss won't hurt them.
I think the worst part is that her horrid book (which apparently they've secretly been releasing revised editions of to deal with the tsunami of wrong information although it can't help the writing) has now been released in a pile of translations. And here the Slovenians were just starting to get better with their wine knowledge. The invasion is now global and will take years to undo.
David, it's a sordid black eye on the CMS that she has the Certified. I guess it shows that anyone can do it. Of course, we don't know how many times it took her to pass, unless it is indeed the Court of Masters because they suck. If you look at the Our Team section however, she just manages to leave at the article on "Court". The fact that there's a paid editor on this bullshit is unfathomable.
I'm going to go drink some NZSB now to fully take in the pain.
BTW, her quote: "Besides being a certified sommelier, my personal education include advanced seminars, tastings, and traveling to wine regions of the world" was copied right from her blog. Yes, she wrote "include" not "includes." Quite the writer. I'd be happy to discuss subject/verb agreement with her, but not over wine. On second thought, no, I wouldn't.
I hear she has Riedel as a sponsor now...
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