Opinionated Wino

My take on wine, booze, food and the good life

The Impotence of Being Earnest

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…part of the reason I have mixed feelings about winery use of social media is that the products (especially the videos) are so damned earnest. There’s no sense of humor, no trace of mocumentary or snicker.

That’s Steve Heimoff, who was soon joined by Robert Joseph in the denouncement of wine earnestness. We’ve all seen this sort of thing, but for the sake of clarity, here’s an example of what I think he means:

Now, I’m not attacking Sculpterra Wiinery here specifically. This problem is much, much bigger than them. I’ve never tried their wines, but I am a great fan of Paso Robles in general, and their winery looks like a lovely place to visit. I’m sure they are very nice people who make delicious wines and who, deep down, find that video as dull as I do. This is just an example of the cloying earnestness that plagues the wine industry. For all of the talk of making wine accessible to the masses, this kind of thing is still far too closely associated with what is at base simply the fermented juice. Which is kind of amazing when you think about the fact that wine is a vehicle for enjoyment. Isn’t “enjoyment” why most of us came to love wine in the first place? (I challenge anyone to keep a straight face while claiming they enjoyed that video. If you find that enjoyable, and you’re not the mother of someone who works at that winery, I truly do not want to know you.)

So why are winery promotions almost invariably so dull? I suspect it has a lot to do with the aspirational aspect of wine connoisseurship. In the popular imagination, wine is still something the upper crust enjoys and discusses at cotillions and the golf clubhouse. This is reinforced by fluffy nouveau-riche publications (One of my all-time favorite headlines from The Onion: New Pompous Asshole Magazine To Compete With Cigar Aficionado) and the prices commanded by the wines they feature. (Drop for drop, it’s hard to find a more expensive way to get tanked than high end wine, which is for some people the point of it.) Self-referential humor and mockery of the snobbery, the prices, the showiness of the estates and the exclusionary language of connoisseurship (“I detect a hint of faded rose petals, under-ripe plum leaf and dew-drenched loam on a spring morning”) cuts into the pretense of it all, and pretense is a major driver of profitability. I suspect there is a generalized fear that people won’t consider their products “high end” if their promotional materials actually bring pleasure.

Thankfully, there are plenty of wineries and wine-related businesses who are willing to risk bringing unself-conscious joy to their customers. A good example is Gundlach Bundschu’s Brief History of Merlot:

Wine is supposed to be pleasurable. It is supposed to be fun. It’s time the industry stopped trying to suck every ounce of enjoyment from it and relaxed a bit. I propose making the HoseMaster required reading for all wine bloggers and p.r. professionals, just to take us all down a notch and remind us that this is supposed to be fun.

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