If you're looking for the original post about groupie-ism in the wine world, I've removed it, or at least I did, and now it's back up again)
The post geminated during my last visit to France. I was struck by how appealing the world of wine, and specifically, natural wine, had become. So much so that the purity I had adored, seemed to be getting tarnished because of its new rock-star-like gleam. The fact that natural wine in Paris has become chi-chi cannot be denied. It's hip. It's current. It's fresh and it's sexy. That's okay. In a few years it will be totally mainstream, and the new whatever will take its place. But, during this visit I saw the emergence of groupie-like behavior which I had not seen before.
I'm not talking about enthusiasts who go out of their way to visit and taste and talk, but people who want to mostly hang out and claim connoisseurship.
This, by the way, was a disturbingly popular post. In a matter of two hours I received 1000 visitors to my site, normally I get between 500-600 visits over 24 hours. Is it because it was sensational? Because it revved up, oh my god, did you see? Who is she talking about? Was it the gossip element in it? Was it because of the power of a New York Post like headline? Or that it was true. The possibility that the draw was for its possible sensational draw, was one of the reasons to take it down.
I also received many personal notes and even phone calls of people who knew what I was talking about. A few of them came from venerable folk in the wine world, "Spot on," was a term often used. Other messages came in from the food industries, who have witnessed this in their world for quite some time now. It's universal in any field.
I can't always be in control of how my posts are being read, or what personal history the reader brings to my words. Not wanting to be a part of what was turning destructive, I have removed the original, though I hope the conversation is not silenced.
So, three months later? I've received so many requests to repost, here it is again. Thanks as always for reading.
The incredible sexy wine profession, is this the beginning of the end?
All one has to do is read Levi Dalton's posts to understand that some people long to work the floor. This is not limited to men. Talk to Linda Milagros Violago--sommelier to the world and presently at Geranium--who is devoted to three-star service, or the devotion to wine and hard work of Laura Maniec, or Pascaline Lepeltier who studies wine with the obsessiveness of a heart surgeon. But all of these people got into the biz before it was sexy. They got there out of pursuit of excellence in their chosen area of passion. For all of these folk, wine came first. The idea of getting into this business because of the glam or rubbing noses with vinous rockstars would have been ludicrous.
This is a post that is for sure going to get me into trouble.
When in France right after the New Year I was struck by more drunkeness than I’m used to at the tastings. Natural wine has become so trendy that I found too many people there for alcohol, for the hang, for the flirt, and the scene. At times, if standing next to the wrong people, I could have been at the Wine Experience, only with facial hair and tattoos. For sure, this is still the minority that could give this world a sheen I'd rather scrub off, but this reminds me of the times I used to do a lot of contra dancing. Then dances were given ink as a great place to get a hook up. This was true, but when people came specifically to look to score, this was the end of an era and of purity. The dance is the dance. Wine is the wine. The fact that we love it or find love through it, a different story.
In a similar gripe, let me announce that we have entered the age of the wine groupie. Wine has become so sexy a beast that more men and women want this piece of glam and fun but have no idea that the field requires study and discipline. Sharing in this equation is the wine director or enthusiast who claims best friends with cerain stars of this world.
"Frank Cornelissen is my great friend!"
"I taught Jancou all he knows!"
"Eric Texier loves me!"
Or the woman who hung on to Puzelat's coattails, ended up being invited to places when no one knows who she is. Obviously, I can't name names and in some cases, I never found out their names. Even more obnoxious is the use of a corkscrew to get to the casting couch.
The feminist in me is crushed. Of course, there are more men who are winemakers, wine directors at top restaurants and generally in control. I mean, I just don't hear men sommeliers claiming Noella Morantin as their buddy, or tackling Fanny Sabre. Oh sure, everyone is in love with the gorgeous Elisabetta Foradori, sultry Arianna O ,and adorable Francesca Padovani, but I just don't see them being groupied in the same way.
Until now, I don't remember seeing women notch their belts with winemakers. Chefs, yes. Winemakers and suited, manicured sommeliers? Not really. Is this what happens when the tastevin comes off? Here it is. Wine movers and shakers have finally acheived the sex appeal of star chefs.
Look, I'm no prude here. I'm all for a roll in the hay, a mad passionate interlude without the blessing of marriage, the pipette in every port sort of thing. The groupieness of it all, and yes, on both sides of the Atlantic and let's throw in Pacific while we're at it, made me want to scrub. Whether it's through sex or partying of another kind, what we're seeing more of is the poseur who has learned a few tricks and going for the prestige without doing their due diligence. Damn. True, the profession is fun and glamorous and the perks and parties can be alluring, but to enter this world for the stardust is the wrong intention.
As I look around at the few who have snuck under the ribbon, I realize that I was too old before I knew I could have used the heave of my breast to get ahead. I'm not saying it is bad trick to know. All women should be schooled in the art of getting what they want and using all of the tools in their quiver. But, I missed that part of my education.
While sleeping with the rock stars of the wine world can help get invitations, they can't put the details and the tastes and the terroir in your head. And so I’ll pass along this bit of advice to those who are choosing the easy route: My old editor at Interiors magazine once told me, "Alice, it's not how good you are, it is first who you know. And then, how good you are."
What do you think? Have I just been blind in the past? Has this been the way it always was and I was just too in love with the wine world to see the warts? Whether or not, a little advice to the new generation. Sure, sleep around, do a line or two with your favorites, make your connections, but don't forget to hit the books.