Following yet another violent attack on the “bondage to rating systems” and so-called critics trying to “enhance their self-image as experts,” the U.S. Congress passed, and the President signed, legislation outlawing the 100-point system as well as “adjectival diarrhea” of the type that pollutes wine reviews.
From now on, in the President’s words, “No numbers, letters, puffs or symbols of any kind will be tolerated in wine reviews, nor will hifalutin phrases nobody can understand. They are un-American and have no place in our society.” However, numbers may still be applied to beer reviews.
Within hours after the new law went into effect, some well-known wine writers committed suicide. The first was Robert Parker, who received the news on his iPhone while at the top of Chateau Latour’s famous tower, from which he jumped to his death. Later that day, Wine Spectator’s James Laube was found slumped over a bottle of Marcassin. He allegedly left a note saying that “Life isn’t worth living if I can never give another 100-point rating to an undrinkable wine.”
Wine Enthusiast’s California reviewer, Steve Heimoff, told reporters that he had considered suicide but rejected it. “I’ve reinvented myself before and I can do it again,” he said, adding that he was considering a new career “in Cirque du Soleil, if they’ll have me, or possibly as a politician.”
Passage of the new law caused consternation in the infamous “Wall of Wine” aisles of major supermarkets. Mrs. Penny Waddlesworth, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, was weeping in the local Piggly-Wiggly. “I don’t know how to make a selection without an expert score to guide me,” she said, adding that her husband’s boss was coming to dinner “and I don’t want to embarrass myself by choosing a bad wine.”
Penrose P. Puffington, Ph.D., a clinical psychiatrist from Los Angeles who specializes in addiction and depression, said it is likely that psychotherapists will see an uptick in clients frustrated by their inability to choose wines. “It’s like suddenly taking heroin away from an addict. Millions of consumers have effectively been thrown into critical ‘cold turkey.’”
Roger Addlesworth, a spokesperson for Safeway, said the food chain giant was considering hiring temporary “wine buddies” to advise confused shoppers. Wilfred Wong, the eTasting Director at Beverages, & More!, said that the chain would respect the new law and stop using numerical ratings. “But our lawyers have advised us that the phrase ‘numbers, letters, puffs or symbols of any kind’ does not necessarily preclude subtle hints [that] alert customers to our real feelings about the wines we sell.” Wong refused to speculate about what those “subtle hints” might be.
Others celebrated the new law, stating it will enable bad wines to finally be able to compete with good ones. Elwood Nadir, the owner/winemaker at Beauty Ridge Vineyards, in Arkansas’s Cummingsworth Valley, noted that his wines had never scored above 62 points in the Wine Spectator. “That was really bad for business, but now that there are no more scores, we hope to be able to give Chateau Lafite a run for the money.” Nadir has engaged a top public relations firm to create a press kit, and also recently hired a Director of Social Media to reach out to Millennials and create “buzz.” “I don’t think those kids ever cared much for scores anyway,” he said.
He may be right. Arthur Azimuth, a media analyst for the Wine Institute who advises the San Francisco-based wine organization’s clients on how to Twitter and use Facebook, said that Millennials see scores “as so 20th century. The 100-point system was for your father, if not your grandfather. Young people today are all about peer advice and recommendations from friends.”
Napa Valley’s cult winemakers, however, are not amused. Said one, who did not wish to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject, “We’ve depended on Parker-Spectator 95-plus scores for years to justify our $250 a bottle price. This new law is biased against me and people like me.” The winemaker said he is talking with some of his cult winery colleagues about challenging the law before the U.S. Supreme Court. “Our lawyers have advised us we have a good case,” he said.
A spokesman for the American Bar Association, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said that the new law, like all laws, will be good for lawyers. “Whatever happens, lawyers end up the winners. I would give this new law 100 points,” he said, smiling.
We have wine competitions and restaurant competitions and wine list competitions and wine blog competitions and chef competitions and winemaker competitions and every kind of competition you can think of in the wine and food world. Now we have the U.S. Professional Wine Buyer’s Competition.
It’s a forum for marketers (wineries) to get their product, wine, “in front of top wine buyers from all over the nation,” which is the equivalent of giving a college pitching pheenom the chance to show his stuff to MLB scouts.
The winery pays the contest’s owners $75 per wine and gets to pour for buyers from the likes of PlumpJack (that’s Gavin Newsom’s company), the Ritz Carlton, Whole Foods and the Playboy Mansion. Landing a deal with any of them could be the difference, in this lousy economy, between making a profit or taking a loss.
Neat idea. I bet a ton of wineries will enter, thereby giving the competition’s owners a hefty profit. So I set about thinking, what segment of the wine and food industry doesn’t yet have a competition? Can I horn in on the competition bubble and grab my share of the booty? So my fertile little mind immediately comes up with an idea.
First, I figured, why not have a literal wine buyers’ competition? Take these frontline buyers and let ‘em do gladiatorial mortal combat with each other, maybe in a caged, UFC-style arena. After all, everybody always says that selling wine these days is a bloodbath. So let the actual buyers bash each other and draw blood!
But no. Not such a good idea. So herewith, I am announcing a new competition, of which I am sole owner and sponsor. Ladies and gents [drum roll], it’s….
America’s Hottest Winemaker Competition
in 2 divisons, male and female.
I don’t know if you realize, but there are some pretty good-looking winemakers out there. Think about it. Winemaking is a laborious job, physically-speaking, what with stomping through all those vineyards, dragging hoses, climbing ladders and scampering up to the top of a four-barrel pile to thief off a pour. Winemakers are forever driving their pickups into town to buy a clamp, and when they’re not making wine, they’re traveling all over the place selling it. As a result, many winemakers have lean, mean, muscled bodies (we’re talking about gals as well as guys). They’re tanned from time in the sun, with the ruddy look of farm kids. Which, actually, they are.
I never asked a good-looking winemaker if he/she was aware of his physical attractiveness and used it as a marketing plus, but, come on, can we talk? Happens all the time. I am envisioning a particular male winemaker right now whose face and body are used in print advertisements precisely because of his Hollywood good looks. We all know that good looks in politicians are almost a requirement. Mitt Romney tried to ride his square-jawed whiteboy cutsie-pie face all the way to the White House. Gavin Newsom was twice elected Mayor of San Francisco because he looks like a younger Mitt Romney (despite his addiction to hair gel). There is a certain female winemaker, also heavily used in print advertisements, who has one of the most toned bodies I’ve ever seen. It’s basic advertising 101: People would rather buy a product from someone who’s good-looking than from someone who’s ugly.
So let’s get to the bottom line: Who are the hottest winemakers out there? Inquiring minds wanna know.
Here are the contest rules:
- California only. As the competition grows, we’ll expand it to the West Coast, then the U.S., then the world!
- $1,000 per entry fee.
- Send a face and body picture (clothed, please) to me.
- I’ll line up some celebrity judges to give the thing buzz.
- We’ll put up a YouTube. If you don’t think we’ll get a billion views, you’re crazy. (And think of the P.R. for the winning winery!)
- There will be a talent portion and a swimsuit portion.
- The top twelve winners get to pose in the “Hottest Winemaker” calendar of 2011.
- No. 1 winners (male and female divisions) get the Mr./Ms. Hottie Trophy and the chance to audition for a leading T.V. series.
I’ll be posting updates, including deadlines, so keep watching this blog!
We’re interviewing Dr. Marvin Wankman, a Ph.D specialist in media history at Harvard University, about the demise of social media and why all the predictions about its rise were wrong. Welcome Dr. Wankman.
Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Let me start by reading you a few things that were written in the media about social media in the year 2009. From TIME Magazine: “Social media takes over the world.” From The New York Times: “Soon, we’ll all be tweeting 24/7/365.” From The Economist: “It’s a social media world and we all just live in it.” From Wired Magazine: “There is no doubt that social media will revolutionize the way humans communicate with each other.” Now here we are in the year 2017 and the social media landscape is a shambles. What happened?
Well, it was just another case of media hype. After Sept. 11, 2001, Americans were in great uncertainty. Couple that with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Great Recession, the election of Barack Obama, and the difficulties of traditional media, and people were in an apocalyptic state of mind. It seemed that the world as we had always known it was changing fast. So with the boom of social media, it was natural for people to think it represented some major new paradigm in human development. But, of course, it didn’t. It was just another bubble.
Didn’t anybody at the time point out that social media was not as revolutionary as everyone said it was?
A few people, here and there. But by and large, their viewpoints were swept away by the avalanche of media coverage that insisted social media was the wave of the future.
What was the turning point for social media, the point at which things began falling apart?
There were many and they were incremental. One of the first was in mid-2009, when reports surfaced that people were leaving Twitter faster than they were joining it. Another early warning was when Baby Boomers took over Facebook, which drove the Millennials away from it, toward a chaotic mix of bizarre alternatives that splintered the community and further confused it. And certainly, in 2010, when Nabisco bought Facebook, that generated a lot of hostility. And it didn’t help when, that same year, Gary Vaynerchuk announced he was quitting all web activity on being hired as the new host of American Idol, after Ryan Seacrest was killed in that freak balloon accident. But I think the real turning point was more subtle. It was when people starting realizing that spending all their free time on social media was boring and non-productive.
There was also a psychological aspect. Remember that case in 2011, when a woman in Omaha sought coverage from her HMO for addiction to Twitter? Saturday Night Live had that Tina Fey parody where she was “twaddicted to twack.” Twitter became a laughingstock. Suddenly, it wasn’t cool to be pecking away on your iPhone all day and night, it was seen as a form of deviancy. Human beings realized that actual speaking — talking to the person next to you — is better than obsessively sending off vapid messages into the ether. Young people began re-engaging with one another. As more and more people distanced themselves from social media, the only ones still using it were the elderly. (It was no coincidence when the AARP declared 2011 “The Year of Social Media.”) The crowning point — the coup de grace — was that episode of The Simpsons in 2012, where Grandpa Simpson was trying to text message, and Bart and Lisa were gagging because it was so uncool.
In retrospect, what lessons can be learned from the demise of social media?
Well, in view of the fact that Twitter went bankrupt in 2013 and wiped out $40 billion in stock value, one lesson would be to be careful where you invest your money! Another is to be wary of anything you hear in the media — especially when it’s the media talking about itself to itself. But probably the ultimate lesson is an optimistic one: when all is said and done, humans are social creatures who like to associate with each other. Social media was too divisive. Rather than allowing us to come together, it pushed us apart. It was an ersatz community, a Potemkin Village of virtual, not real, relationships. A reaction was bound to set in.
Thank you very much, Dr. Wankman. It’s been fun.
Yes, it was. Thank you.
The site I created this video with, xtranormal, is easy to use and a lot of fun. Check it out.
(Sorry for the bleed-over into text. Working on a fix.)
I read with interest the press release put out last week by my friend and fellow wine blogger, Tom Wark, about his scheme to monetize his blog. Briefly, as I understand it (and there are many levels of this that have yet to be analyzed), wineries will send Tom baseball caps with their logos, and then Tom will make videos for each winery, where he wears the winery’s cap and plugs them.
I’m stunned that no one thought of this before. Here we are, years into the wine blogging phenomenon, with scores of bloggers putting their collective intelligence into figuring out how to make money, and lo and behold, Tom, in one swift, brilliant stroke, has solved the problem! But it’s the least one would expect from this pioneering guy.
Admittedly, Tom actually devised only one way of making money — by selling his collection of caps to the Smithsonian Institution. I’m sure he could make a vast profit — the Smithsonian is funded by the Federal government, after all — but the problem is that the money wouldn’t come in for many years. So the scheme really won’t help Tom in the short run.
In pondering Tom’s CAPitalization plan, I thought of implications that may have eluded him. I freely share the possibilities opened up by this revolutionary new development.
1. Tom should charge the wineries money for giving them publicity in the videos. Of course, he’d have to do this surreptitiously, because otherwise all those investigative bloggers out there would bust him for “selling out.” But this shouldn’t be difficult. What happens in wine country stays in wine country.
2. Tom could move beyond caps to other articles: T-shirts, designer sneakers, jeans, underwear, sportswear, sunglasses, suits, ties, swimwear, evening gowns, even rubber ducks. The list is endless. Automobiles? DVDs? Golf clubs? Think of all the free stuff!
3. Once Tom compiles a huge collection of clothes and accessories, he can develop his own line of WarkWear. He could sell it on QVC and perhaps even team up with Joan Rivers. Fashion-savvy consumeristas who are into wine would find his Spring and Fall collections irresistable.
4. As Tom achieves worldwide fame as a couturier, he would need P.R. bloggers (proggers; see “Hardy Wallace”) to help him do publicity. He could have a contest to pick the winners. He could call this contest “A Really Good Gob.” This would give other bloggers hope that there’s actually some money to be made at the end of the rainbow.
5. But sooner or later, someone is bound to reveal the fact that Tom had been taking money for his cap videos. This would of course destroy his credibility as a blogger forever, but by the time it happened, Tom would be so rich, he’d be able to flip off his critics and laugh at them as he sailed off on his private yacht to his various villas in fashionable spots around the world.
6. Upon winning a MacArthur grant, Tom — now easily the most famous wine person on Earth except for President Franzia — would forgive all those bloggers who had been criticizing him so heavily for so many years. He would invite them to his ranch (located probably in the Russian River Valley) for a giant Kumbaya singalong.
7. President Franzia appoints Tom Secretary of Social Media. Tom, now holding infinite power over Twitter, Facebook et al, and funded by a multi-billion dollar budget, hires all his blogger friends for sub-Cabinet jobs. He holds auditions in San Francisco, New York, etc. and the applicants line up and down the street.
8. By then, of course (I estimate all this to happen around 2018), a whole new generation of younger Tween wine bloggers has arisen. They see the founding generation of bloggers selling out to “The Man” by taking high-paying jobs (with generous healthcare and retirement benefits), and they criticize these elders mercilessly.
9. Meanwhile, the older generation of Baby Boomer print critics has retired to “Geezer Island,” a tropical paradise in the Caribbean funded by President Franzia to honor all those wine reviewers who helped make Two Buck Chuck successful. Twice each day, air cargo planes parachute pallets of Bronco Wine onto the island so nobody goes thirsty. President Franzia makes Geezer Island off-limits to the healthcare death squads, the only place in the world they’re not allowed to go.
10. President Franzia is stricken by a rare disease and forced to quit office. Under the new Nested Succession laws (passed by the TTB in 2015), Tom becomes President of the United States of America. His money and girlfriend woes are gone forever.
11. President Wark’s first executive order is to eliminate all bottlenecks to the free interstate shipping of wine throughout the United States and its territories. A place is prepared on Mount Rushmore to carve his image. The drinking age is lowered to 18, and all is well.
And it all started with baseball caps! It could happen…
The S.F. Chronicle ran this story, courtesy of the Associated Press:
Top media execs wonder how Twitter will make money
At a top media summit held up in Sun Valley (how come I never get invited to these things?), some of the shrewdest financial minds in the country held a workshop on how Twitter is supposed to make money. Twitter’s co-founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, were there.
According to the article, the prognosis for profit is bleak. “I just don’t think [Twitter] is a natural advertising medium,” said Barry Diller. John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, expressed similar doubts. The article paraphrased him as saying that “Twitter will be hard-pressed to sell advertising…without alienating users.” It’s “best bet,” Malone supposedly said, “is to simply get people so addicted that they might eventually pay fees.” The A.P. reporter concluded, “Twitter hasn’t attempted to profit from its popularity yet, leaving everyone guessing about how the 3-year old startup intends to pay its bills after it exhausts its $55 million venture capital.”
The A.P. reporter tried to get Williams or Stone to comment, but “they didn’t speak up when other executives expressed doubts about Twitter’s revenue prospects.”
Those Twitter guys
[Later that night, at Sushi on Second, a popular hangout in downtown Ketchum. Two despondent guys are on their fourth round of sake.]
Evan Williams: Did you hear what that schmuck, Diller, said? “I don’t think Twitter is a natural advertising medium.” Like, what the hell does he know about ‘natural’?
Biz Stone: Yeah. [laughs bitterly] Everybody knows why he married Diane von Furstenberg.
EW: And that creep, Malone. He talks like we’re drug pushers. Jeez. ‘Addicted.’
BS: We’re creating twaddicts.
They order another round.
BS: Do you really think we could sell ads?
EW: [shrugs] Dunno. Shinkle said we could, on The Ticker.
BS: Yeah, I read that. But he said they’d have to be “unobstrusive.”
EW: What the hell does that mean?
BS: Well, if Google can do it, why can’t we?
EW: [brightens] Yeah! [lifts glass] We can do it! Here’s to Twitter ads!
EW: Maybe Malone has a point. The kids are addicted to Twitter. They can’t live without it.
BS: [making a menacing face and clutching his hands] Ve hef cree-ay-ted a generashun uf dope eddics!
EW: Do you think they’re really hooked, though? I mean, if we suddenly, like, overnight launched a fee. How many would leave?
BS: I guess all of ‘em, except the truly hooked.
EW: We could call ‘em the twooked!
[both are in hysterics]
EW: You gonna finish that California roll?
BS: Twat’s that you say?
EW: [sighs] There has to be another way besides advertising and subscriptions. I mean, both are risky…
EW: [takes another sip] Remember when we realized this could be huge? I was living in Berkeley–
BS: Right. And I was up in Sonoma, drinking wine.
EW: Pinot Noir, if I recall correctly.
BS: Right! And getting a massage. What was her name, anyway?
EW: You twitted me about it, and I thought, Day-um, this isn’t just about communicating, it’s about having fun!
BS: And getting rich!
EW: [hoists his glass in the air] Here’s to getting rich! L’chaim!
One hour later
EW: Hey, you know what’s really funny? If we can’t make money off Twitter, how are all these people who use Twitter gonna make money?
BS: lol, dude.
EW: Page and Brim had a billion before they were 30.
BS: Yeah. [both lapse into silence]
BS: You know what? I have an idea.
EW: Can you tell me in 140 characters?
BS: Lemme whisper it in your ear. You don’t think I’m gonna say it on Heimoff’s blog?
EW: Why not? Everybody thinks he just makes this shit up, anyway.
Or does he?