“I can’t tell which of these posts are April Fool’s and which are true.”
A hallowed blog tradition: The April Fool’s wine post
The blog’s April Fool’s post, which ran from 2013 to 2018, was always well-read and well-received. I stopped writing it for a couple of reasons: First, too many people thought the posts were true. And what does that say about the wine business?
Hence, while I’m in Amsterdam judging a grocery store wine competition this week — really — here are links to the six previous April Fool’s wine posts. They’re still funny and still relevant (even if some of the names have changed). And, most importantly, no mater how many people thought they were real, they aren’t. We have the Blendtique for that.
Why write an April Fool’s wine post this year when so much of the wine business already makes us laugh?
The Wine Curmudgeon didn’t write an April Fool’s wine post this year. For one thing, too many people believed last year’s post, that the Wine Spectator bought the blog. I’m not sure if that speaks to our post-modern media world, or merely highlights my brilliant writing. It’s probably more of the first, though I prefer to think it’s the latter.
For another, the wine world has become so weird that I don’t have to make anything up to make people laugh. Apothic’s coffee-flavored wine, anyone? Or zombie virtual reality wine labels? Or Amazon’s employee-less store – unless you want to buy wine? Or the high-end wine review website that charges its highest subscription fee not to consumers, but to members of the wine trade?
And this doesn’t take into account how Google brings visitors to the blog, which is about as surreal as it gets. I’m more or less the only professional wine writer who takes cheap wine seriously, but that doesn’t stop these Google-driven types from complaining that I don’t appreciate cheap wine. Or criticizing what one commenter called my “holier than thou” attitude. Which, of course, leads to an even more surreal question: If I don’t and if I am, what am I doing here?
So I hope you had an enjoyable April Fool’s Day yesterday. The links for previous April Fool’s wine posts areat the bottom of this post if you want a chuckle or two.
Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon, who has spent the past decade extolling the virtues of cheap wine while skewering wine’s foolishness and snobbery, has had enough. He will sell the blog to the Wine Spectator on April 1; on that date, it will immediately begin using scores, running tasting notes no one can understand, writing about wine that isn’t available to buy, and being as arrogant as possible.
“What’s the point in doing what I’ve been doing?” said Siegel. “No one cares, either among consumers or producers. They just want to drink what the Spectator tells them to drink, and they want to pay two or three times what the wine is worth because it’s in the Spectator. I want to get in on that gravy train.”
A Spectator spokeswoman, who declined to be identified because she was too embarrassed to be quoted in a story about Siegel, said the magazine bought the blog because it was tired of being the butt of so many of its jokes. That included the special Curmudgie award it received every December as well as the blog’s annual April 1 post.
“On the one hand, it’s not like anyone cares about what Siegel writes,” she said. “Who really wants to drink cheap wine? And the few people who read him aren’t really good enough to read our magazine anyway. But some of the old white guys here figured we should shut him up before he causes any trouble.”
Financial terms were not disclosed, but a source close to Siegel laughed when asked how much money changed hands. “Money?” said the source. “Money? When has Siegel ever made a dime off his wine writing?”
“It seemed really counterproductive to be competing against each other since we already dominate the market, most of our wines taste exactly alike, and consumers don’t know the difference anyway,” said a spokeswoman for the new company, which will close all of its facilities but one and fire all of its employees except those a personnel review deems “absolutely necessary.” In fact, the spokeswoman used the words “synergies” and “cost savings efficiences” 173 times during the news conference that announced the merger.
The new CalConTreas Group will revolutionize wine production by taking advantage of those synergies and cost savings efficiencies, said the spokewoman. For example, instead of the thousands and thousands of tanks and barrels each producer uses, the single The GalConTreas Group winery will have just one, factory sized, with thousands of separate spigots for each brand the new company produces.
Said the spokeswoman: “Red, white, varietal character? Does the average consumer really care? Or understand any of that wine writer foolishness? Of course not. All they want is smooth and fruity wine, and baby, that’s what we’re going to give them. And we’re going to premiumize it!”
Reaction to the announcement:
• The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission immediately approved the merger. Their only concern? That it included just four of the biggest companies, instead of the eight biggest and their 60 percent market share. “Because, if you’re going to create a monopoly, what’s the point of not doing it right?” asked a Justice attorney.
• Fred Franzia, whose Bronco Wine is the fifth biggest producer in the country, announced Bronco would merge with itself. “If those people think they can get away with this without taking Fred Franzia into account, they’ve got another thing coming,” he said.
• The Wine Spectator said it would produce a special section in upcoming magazines featuring The CalConTreas Group wines, and that each of the new company’s wines would get 92 points.
• The eight biggest distributors in the country, which control two-thirds of the market, said they would merge into one company to better serve The GalConTreas Group, and used the words “synergies” and “cost savings efficiencies” 342 times in their announcement.
The Wine Spectator, in a stunning reversal of policy, announced today that it will only review wines that people can buy, ending a decades-long practice where it preferred to critique wine made in such small quantities that there were never any for sale.
“Frankly, when we started to think about it, it seemed kind of silly to review wines that weren’t in stores,” said a magazine spokeswoman. “Yes, there was a certain cachet to do wines in the Spectator where the producer only made three cases, because it showed how much better we were than everyone else. Because we are much better than everyone else. But, in the end, we are a wine review magazine, and if our readers can’t buy the wines we review, there isn’t much reason for us to exist, is there?”
The new availability policy, said the spokeswoman, was based on the one used by legendary Internet blogger Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon. Siegel, who declined to be interviewed for this story, uses what he calls general availability: He only reviews wines that consumers can find in a quality wine shop in a medium-sized city. Said the spokeswoman: “Considering how much fun he makes of us, and that he is has no credibility because he is an Internet blogger, Siegel’s policy seems quite practical. Just don’t tell him we stole it.”
Reaction from the wine world was immediate:
? A host of cult wines in the Napa Valley, whose production rarely exceeds 100 cases each, announced plans to increase the amount of wine they make so they can be reviewed. “If we’re not in the Spectator, what’s the point of making wine?” asked one winery owner, a Silicon Valley zillionaire. “It’s not like I care about the wine. I just want my friends to be jealous when they see my wine, which they can’t buy, got a 99.”
? Several other wine magazines said they would follow suit, although the Wine Advocate said it would use availability in China as its threshold. “Listen, when you pay as much money for the Advocate as we did,” said a co-owner, “you really don’t care if anyone can buy the wine in Omaha.”
? The country’s largest retailers, including Costco and Walmart, made plans for special Wine Spectator sections in their wine departments, now that the Spectator would review most of the wine that they carry. “They’re already selling some wine for us with their scores and shelf talkers,” said one retailer. “So why not just get rid of the pretense and let them do all the work?”
Scalia: “So how does this affect what I buy through my wine club?”
A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled today that wine writing, since it’s mostly about selling wine and isn’t journalism, is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Instead, said the 5-4 majority, it falls under the 21st Amendment, which allows each state to regulate alcohol sales any way it sees fit, and which makes wine writing part of the three-tier system.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said: “First, state’s rights. Second, I’m an old white guy and I need to be told what wine to drink. Third, I thought wine writing was already about shilling for the industry.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her sharply worded dissent, said: “Has Scalia ever actually read the Constitution? Or is he just making this up as he goes along?”
? The Wine Spectator praised the ruling, and a spokesman said: “We’ll be working closely with our partners in the production, distribution, and regulatory channels to assure that each benefits from the ruling, and especially us.”
? Jeff Siegel, who writes the Wine Curmudgeon blog, announced he was giving up wine writing to return to the Burger King on Skokie Valley Road in Highland Park, Ill., where he worked the broiler as a teenager. “Yes, I’ll smell like a hamburger when I’m done with my shift,” he said, “but no will expect me to write that a Whopper has a bouquet of fresh heirloom tomatoes.”
The Court’s ruling came in Bonne vs. Parker, stemming from an incident at the 2014 Symposium for Professional Wine Writers that seemed really important at the time but, like so much about wine writing, is not that big a deal to the vast majority of people who drink wine.