Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This year's Christmas Letter to anyone who cares


Well it’s been a very interesting year for us – especially given our varied range of activities in the wine world. Obviously Christmas won’t be quite the same without cousin Rudy, but he sent us a very nice-looking bottle of Burgundy to enjoy with the turkey. And on the bright side we can celebrate the fact that another of our cousins has just become co-owner of the Wine Advocate so  maybe we can get that nice Mr Parker to come and help out with our next white Zin release.

Perhaps the biggest thing for us in 2012 was the move into supernatural wines. As you may remember we launched some cloudy brown unsulphored wines last year but when we tasted them, we felt they maybe lacked a certain something. They were certainly authentic, but were they really expressing the terroir as fully as they could? That was when Alberic our consultant had his Eureka moment. What we had to do, he said, was ask all the winery staff simply to stop washing. As he logically pointed out, “the Romans didn’t use soap – and nor did the people who produced the great Bordeaux of the 19th century”. It was, he believes, the arrival of personal hygiene and sulphor dioxide that industrialized wine and removed its soul. Well, all I can say is that introducing a wide range of unfamiliar human bacteria into the cuverie has undeniably helped to reveal terroir characteristics neither we – nor anyone else - ever imagined.

The most brilliant part of the story – apart from the prices these wines now command in New York and Paris - is the response we have had from sommeliers and a small group of very influential wine writers. We particularly treasure the comment by one blogger who wrote that “anyone who says that these wines look and taste disgustingly like vinegary gravy is simply missing the point!”

We were very delighted that our Château de Pot d'Or-Dure was elevated to the level of Cru Artisan Supérieur; it's a great honour and it's bound to help our sales in Japan. Next we just have to keep our fingers crossed that our other Bordeaux property, Château Fer-Mélelundi gets its long awaited promotion to Cru Bourgeois Médiocre.

Our other wine business has faced a few challenges this year. Prompted by the success of Cupcake, Menage a Trois and Little Black Dress, we decided it was time to launch a sweet red onto the US market. Making the wine was the easy part; choosing a name was much trickier. Bruce pointed out that FlipFlop had done well for the Wine Group and suggested that do the logical thing and call our Australian range “Thong”. We’d bottled and labeled a couple of containers before our US and UK importers told us they had issues about the name. Now we’re exploring other options. Most of the other cake names  - LayerCake and Angel Cake and Cake itself had all been taken, so we spent some money on registering “Eccles Cake” and “Anzac” and we’re keeping our fingers crossed. If that doesn’t work, Bruce is keen on our trying “Troilism” which his Thesaurus offered as an alternative to Menage a Trois. So far no other wine company has apparently tried to register it.

We attended this year’s Global Wine Microblogger’s Conference – GWMC – and it was a terrific event. Meeting two hundred writers of wine blogs with audiences of ten or fewer readers – the definition of a “wine microblogger” was an eye-opener for us. We’re very confident that exposing them to our latest cuvee is going to make our fortune. It’s also great that we now have a Vice President responsible for Social Media, and that 13 people (including our friends and family) have all shown that they “like” us. Next we re going to make a little music video between the vines called “Gamay Style” which Bilbo - who's going to do a little dance with some bottles - is sure will go varietal on You Tube.

Bilbo’s technical prowess was also called upon this year when an important UK wine buyer called Jan Dago said that we have to listen to consumers. Embedding recording and transmitting devices into every label of our latest vintage represented a big investment – and now we’re confronting the ongoing costs of paying an officeful of Indians to decode every word the bottles are hearing. But we’re sure it will pay off in the long run…


Distributing our wine has been an interesting process this year. Until now, in the UK we’ve been paying TesdaBurys to put our bottles on their shelves and I must say that they’ve done a great job of building awareness of our brand among British bargain hunters. Unfortunately, our accountant suggested that we might not be able to carry on doing this, so we’ve begun to explore a new option called the “Indies”. These are brilliant stores scattered across the British Isles who collectively, we believe, may be able to sell literally dozens of bottles of our wine.

The challenges of the UK drove us to look at China and we have high hopes there, especially after our discussions with Mr Fong our importer. His experience of dealing in sardines and leather glamourwear has been invaluable in helping us to build our market. Without him, we’d never have come up with the idea of faking our own wine. He explained that since it was going to happen anyway, we might as well do it ourselves. So, we’re now shipping three containers of our Chateau Lebou-Chonné AOC la Clape into Shanghai and very profitably producing 300 containers of Choteau Rebou-Chonn OOC la Clope in a little factory outside Guangzhou from alcohol, grape juice and ink.

He's just proposed that we go into a joint venture to produce a competitor to one of Gallo's bigger brands but I have concerns over the packaging. We've found some nice donkey images to go on the Bare-Ass label but people keep telling me that critter brands aren't working any more...

Wishing you success and happiness in 2013, if we make it through the 21st. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: It has become clear that some people have a) assumed that the comments above accurately reflect the opinions of the author and b) taken the letter quite seriously. This is highly regrettable. Please accept our sincerest apologies.

CRUCIAL SUPER-NATURAL WINE UPDATE - For more information on recent developments in this area read this

42 comments:

  1. I'm confused - did you write this? Doesn't sound like you? It seems a strange post

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  2. I'm very glad it doesn't sound like me. It's a satire...

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  3. Phil Handford - @GrasshopperRock - wrotr. a nice note to finish the year on. Great to meet earlier in the year. I enjoy your writing. Cheers Phil

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  4. Thanks Phil, glad you liked it! Good luck for 2013

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  5. Tom Riley @GrapeBelt wrote - [Thong is] Major marketing error. Best of luck to them. Won't work.

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  6. Love the work ......

    Have you tried 'cakebread' wine from Napa ? Despite their established name and serious efforts thier name and your article make me laugh

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  7. Tom Riley @GrapeBelt wrote I retract my hasty comment. Of course it will work! Excellent post. Some of the best laughs I've had in days. But think about changing THONG to AssCrack. Not nearly as suggestive, but so many possibilities if marketing several labels.

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  8. Anna Flowerday @TeWhareRaWines wrote
    I even snorted Riesling out of my nose while reading it!... funniest thing I had read in ages.

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  9. Stuart Finley wrote Brilliant.....a great read!! Funny, but with more than a passing nod to reality!

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  10. Sue Fairlie Cuninghame wrote via Facebook
    take the time.....it's great...........delightfully irreverent.....Oh and Robert Joseph we actually had terrible feedback from fellow vignerons and cautious sommeliers about our name (Mongrel ) but it has worked for us

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  11. With a backed up to do list, and all before end of play Friday, I'm very glad I took 5 mins out to read this. Started my Tuesday with a smile. Thanks Robert. See you soon.

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    1. Thanks Ewan! Have a good break!

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  12. How about Wedgie to replace Thong? Also connects with the cake labels....
    Super post, lots and lots to giggle about. Thank you Robert.

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    1. Thanks John. Have a great Christmas!

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  13. Paola Tich11:04 am

    And I thought Menage a Trois and Little Black Dress were part of your fevered imagination too. Oh. I hope your letter goes 'varietal'...

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    1. Thanks Paola. Some things are beyond my powers of invention.

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  14. Paola - great thought there - going Varietal that is ;0)

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  15. Great laugh thanks!

    Happy Christmas to you too Robert!

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  16. I wish this was real universe stuff. Oh, hang on...

    Brilliant. Very very amusing.

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  17. Superb post Robert! Too funny that people can take it seriously.

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  18. There's marketing sense in the madness - faking your own wine is incredible!

    You could also save money by conducting free industrial espionage on yourself and simply emailing the print-ready files for the labels.

    Even better, save the effort of recreating your wine from other ingredients in China by importing bulk juice from abroad at knock-down prices ... then score a huge (own) goal by bidding for the contract for the bulk juice with the original wine - It's already made, so you can sell it for virtually nothing.

    Genius!

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    1. I'm glad you can see the potential in Mr Fong's scheme. I look forward to the three of us dining together and plotting to exploit your brilliant extension of the original concept!

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  19. Sir,

    It was a pleasure to meet you at this year's Global Wine Microblogger's Conference. I would like to say that I would attend next year, but it appears that I now have a readership of 11, so I am alas ineligible.

    I greatly enjoyed the debate "unnatural wines - are they just a passing fad?" which you chaired, despite our differences of opinion (I still believe that there is a growing market for synthetic wine, despite Jeremiah Cesspool's regrettable decision to go biodynamic).

    I must however pull you up on something. As the original author of the quote "anyone who says that these wines look and taste disgustingly like vinegary gravy is simply missing the point!", I am shocked that you have reproduced my work with no attribution and no permission whatsoever.

    I am now looking straight down the barrel of a smoking gun, in terms of the reputational risk and collateral damage that could result in my scribblings being confused with those of your own.

    I am however a reasonable man, and if you fedex me 10 cases of Choteau Rebou-Chonn OOC la Clope (with US strip labels and owc) then I will call it quits.

    Your obedient servant and world's leading wine nearly-nano-blogger,

    Natal Lee Come-clean.


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  20. Dearest Natal, I am so delighted to hear from you; I do so enjoy reading your - or should I say my - words on your site. However, as a mark of respect and generosity, I will now stop reading your blog, thus rendering you eligible to next year's event.

    Regarding Cesspool's Horny BioDynamic WineFactory; I sill feel that he is on the right track...

    I will happily now attribute authorship of "anyone who says that these wines look and taste disgustingly like vinegary gravy is simply missing the point!" to you, though I suspect that Robin Jancison may have said something very similar, though possibly about another wine.

    Sadly, thanks to a shortage of ink, production of Choteau Rebou-Chonn OOC la Clope has temporarily come to a halt, though we can of course knock up labels and strip labels as required.

    Naturally kind regards

    Joe Robertson

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  21. Sir,

    I notice that you and Robin Jancison seem to share the same IP address.

    Are you in some way related?

    Yours as ever . . . . (etc)

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  22. Hi Robert.

    I have decided to interpret all of your comments on my natural wine post as satire as well;)

    Seriously, was a pleasure getting to spar a bit and get to know you this year.

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  23. Robert,

    You should fire your hapless consultant Alberic as soon as possible before he causes severe harm to your wine’s public image, as he’s got it the wrong way round! It’s a well known fact that the Romans used soap, and the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians also, thousands of years before them, and that it was the stinky Germanic barbarians that did away with all that personal hygiene nonsense and ushered in the age of natural human aromas, that we all enjoy so much here in Europe today.

    Although it’s a wonderful idea, I’m a bit worried about faking my own wine. The term ‘fake wine’ is meaningless because there’s no legal or official definition, and so consumers might be confused! If I were to have the audacity to market my wines as ‘fake wines’, consumers might jump to the conclusion that all other wines were somehow ‘authentic’! Neither have I seen any willingness from the fakers to define themselves and move towards certification; they way things stand now, anyone could produce a wine any which way and just call it ‘fake’.

    Merry Christmas everyone, and try to avoid those seasonal wine pairing recommendations, and just stick to the usual spam :)

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    1. Hmm Fabio, Alberic has an answer for you. He says that yes the Ancients used soap but they also used lead, resin, herbs and sea water, and possibly SO2 and Hades knows what else in their wine so they were no friends to "natural" wine. The real Naturals in his view were the Frenchmen (and women) who preferred occasional cologne to soap and water. He says that one of the advantages of making natural wine in France is that les anti-douches are still easily found.

      Apropos faking, I think you have to focus on the concept of the authentic fake v inauthentic fakes...

      Do you eat your spam with redcurrant jelly by the way?

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  24. As microbloggers ourselves, may we just say how typical it is that "old-school" wine writers fail to take our niche seriously.

    You'll regret it when there are hundreds of us!

    Oh…

    (Nice one, Robert!)

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  25. Crucial Update on Super-Natural Wines. See my latest post http://thejosephreport.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/more-on-super-natural-wines-you-couldnt.html

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  26. Very funny Bobby Jo! I'm deep into lumpy wine now. Once we finish bulldozing the winery and digging the bare earth fermenters we'll bring the other BJ - Brian John Croser - in to advise on how to stop the wine running into the ground. There's a bloke around here somewhere who says he knows how to ferment under the concentrated gravity of a close full moon. Apparently it holds the wine up.

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  27. Very interesting Philip, especially as I now believe that truly great wine not only needs human bacteria and nakedness (a recent discovery thanks to friends in Queensland), but also a total eclipse. Or possibly a comet.

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  28. Brilliant! Thanks for the laugh, it is appreciated. Cheers and Happy New Year.

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    1. Thanks Beau, and Happy New Year to you too...

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