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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Texas Style

More observations from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

Bottle Shock

I am in Dallas, Texas this weekend, visiting my Mom, celebrating with family, and finally watched the movie “Bottle Shock.”

After seeing it lambasted by wine enthusiasts, getting serviceable reviews from everybody else, and with actor Chris Pine, who plays Bo Barrett in the movie also playing Captain Kirk to good reviews in the current Star Trek movie, it was time to draw my own conclusion.

I was pleasantly surprised.  As an hour and 50 minutes of entertaining confection with good cinematography, it’s not a bad movie.

“Bottle Shock” is, however, definitely not a serious wine movie or biopic.


If anything, the screenwriting was a touch formulaic.  Nor is having the director with a co-writing credit on the screenplay ever a good sign.  However, I thought Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier was great and I thought Chris Pine was horrible – acting a bad cliché of an already bad cliché as a young mid-1970’s slacker. 

Rickman and Pine each star in dual narratives that collide and run analogous and the difference in weight and talent each brought to the screen was palatable.

Throw this movie in the same category as a summertime beach read and appreciate it for what it is.

On a separate, but related note, thanks to the Time magazine archives, you can see the magazine article from George Taber that started it all.  Hard to believe that 395 words and a largely unremarkable article incited such a revolution.

Fred Franzia

The current issue of the the New Yorker includes a piece on Fred Franzia and it is a very good article.  Surely, it breaks no new ground.  It’s essentially the same shtick that several writers before Dana Goodyear have written, an exercise in overt mythmaking and caricature development perpetuated by Franzia, a whip-smart man who reveals exactly the amount of his intellectual iceberg that he desires.

It is as if Franzia knows his ultimate legacy will be decided post-mortem and as such he wants to build a body of work.  These articles always highlight his personality to a greater extent (or at least commensurate) than the business aspect, isolating the crassness, the oblique misogyny, the disdain for the high-end of the wine industry.  Nonetheless, it should be required reading for anybody that cares about wine – not to incite the passionate, which a profile of Franzia always does, but for some of the inherent wisdom that it reinforces.

Like it or not, acknowledged or not, Franzia does good for the wine industry, even if his perspective punctures wine lifestyle thought bubbles along the way.  In my opinion, Charles Shaw wine, the movie “Sideways,” and the coming of age of Generation Y have had the greatest impact on increasing wine consumption in the U.S. in the last decade, an opinion that is virtually empirical based on divining the major, omnipresent consumer trends.

It is inevitable that people graduate from Charles Shaw wine, and if you’ve ever shopped at Trader Joe’s you quickly realize that the stated Trader Joe’s demographic of the, “over-educated, underpaid” is precisely who buys “Two-Buck Chuck.”

It’s the culturally literate, budding wine curious, who are demographically above buying wine off the bottom shelf.

Drinkers of Charles Shaw and many other Bronco Wine Company wines graduate to higher-priced wines, and it is precisely that rising tide, when coupled with Generation Y’s penchant for mid-priced imports, that creates health in the U.S. wine business today and in the future.

Karen MacNeil has a telling and wise quote in the article, saying:

“There’s a phrase in wine education—there are Wednesday-night wines and then there are Sunday-night wines.  They may Sunday-night wines in the Napa Valley, but every vintner in this Valley would argue that we all need Wednesday-night wines, Franzia should just leave it at that – say, ‘I make Wednesday-night wines.  I’m not going to make the Armani suit, I’m going to be the clothes purveyor to Target.’  Instead, he suggests that somehow there is no valid premise for expensive wines.”

To me, the notion that Franzia wants to grow his business from 20 million cases of wine a year, to 100 million cases a year, virtually ensures a future where wine is included on the table of a vast number of Americans, cementing the development of the U.S. as a country of wine lovers.  There will always be a place for wines of place, a Sunday-night wine, but increasingly, it looks like Franzia has his sights set not just on a ‘Wednesday-night’ wine, but a Monday through Saturday wine, as well.


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (3) |


On 05/17, Dirty wrote:

I struggled with Bottleshock.

Rickman stole the show, but where I struggled with it was that they took an amazing story of wine, and turned it into the story of an intern that sleeps around and cleans out barrels in a wet t-shirt.  Not that I protest, but the story was lost in the process.

On 05/18, Dylan wrote:

I agree with Karen’s quote. The fact is one would not exist without the other. A very rare percentage of the world’s population is born into vast amounts of expendable income. To the majority whom finds themselves slowly earning their way, there is certainly room for both over the course of their lives. I have heard the argument before that just as Two Buck Chuck, Yellow Tail could be considered a “gateway wine.” This gateway will bring the overeducated underpaid into the world of wine like any gateway—as a starting point. From there interest can develop, wines can be explored through the ranks as income and lifestyle change over time. That counts for the other side as well, for anyone who believes low-cost Franzia wines don’t belong and cheapen the industry, this is just as short-sighted as Franzia’s detest for the expensive wines. There is a market for both and they deserve to exist.

On 06/22, paris sportifs wrote:

yeaahh texas style :D


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