Welcome to the 2014 Curmudgies, the third annual, presented to the people and institutions that did their best over the previous 12 months to make sure that wine remained confusing, difficult to understand, and reserved for only the haughtiest among us. This was, unfortunately, a particularly fruitful year for Curmudgie nominees, and I could have turned this into a week-long Curmudgie fest. But why subject you to more than one day of this foolishness?
This year’s winners:
• Worst news release: I’ve been reading press releases since the days of carbon paper and typewriters, and I’ve never seen as many bad releases as this year. How about the one that made fun of wine writers for making fun of bad press releases? Or the one that touted “artisan chicken fingers”? But the winner, for ineptitude above and beyond, comes from AGA-VIE Tequilla & Cognac, “the world’s first and only spirit created from a distillation of Weber Blue Agave (Tequila) and Cognac.” It commits all of the usual post-modern PR sins — the typos, exclamation points, and hackneyed writing (“To bottle is beautiful and the taste even more so!”). But what it sets it apart is the email subject line: “Must Have Spirt for the Holidays – AGAVIE Tequilla & Cognac.” Yes, the word spirit is misspelled, and this comes from an agency that claims it is composed of “seasoned communication professionals with a variety of agency experience and contacts that blanket the media spectrum.” I wonder: What kind of seasoning? Barbecue?
• The regional wine award, or the more things change, the more they stay the same: To Virginia state Senator Thomas A. Garrett Jr. (R-22), who was tired of the Virginia-only selections at Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s cocktail parties and wanted to drink wine and spirits from elsewhere, like Kentucky, California, and France. Talk about jonesing for a Bourbon and Coke. I wonder: Would Senator Garrett object if he was attending a state supplier event where the suppliers had enough money to contribute to his re-election campaign? Or if he was being served one of Virginia’s world-famous hams? “This is junk. Where’s some of that Italian stuff?”
• The three-tier system is our friend award: To the Texas Package Stores Association, the state’s retailer trade group, which is suing the Total Wine chain because its owners are not state residents — even though the law that requires the Total owners to be Texas residents was overturned by a federal court in 1994. You can read the entire story at the link, though I would recommend it only if you want to make your head hurt. Dec. 19, 2014 update: A federal court judge, noting that the suit was kind of silly, dismissed the trade group’s lawsuit: “…having to compete in a free and fair marketplace is not an injury.”
• The Wine Spectator will always be the Wine Spectator: For Matt Kramer’s July 15 article discussing the not always friendly battle between what he calls the “Mainstream Mob” and the “Natural Posse” over winemaking philosophy. It’s ponderous as only the Spectator can be, and in the end it doesn’t say anything other than both sides have a point but that they should play nicely. No wonder I’m not a scion of the Winestream Media.
• Would someone please listen to this person? The positive Curmudgie, given to someone who advances the cause of wine sensibility despite all of the obstacles in their way. The winner this year is British wine writer Tom Stevenson, author of “Buy the Right Wine Every Time.” Writes Stevenson: “Inevitably the most widely available wines include many of the cheapest brands, an area of wine habitually avoided by critics. As such wines are almost exclusively purchased by most wine drinkers, those critics (myself included) have effectively disenfranchised most wine consumers. That is something I want to correct.” That says it all, doesn’t it?
For more Curmudgies
• The 2013 Curmudgies
• The 2012 Curmudgies
• Press releases, the wine business, and doing it right