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I’d Love Someone To Hate

Do you think wine blogging would generate more interest if we had someone really good to hate? Wine is an industry lousy with French people, so you’d think there’d be someone we could all agree on, a real son (or daughter) of a bitch that could be the focus of our rage and frustration. But there doesn’t seem to be.

You can still get a good rise out of people saying something nasty about Robert Parker, but his crime seems mostly to be success. I thought for a while it could be Fred Franzia, but even if you don’t like his attitude about the business (and I kind of do, though I don’t generally like his wine), at his worst he’s like a surly, eccentric uncle who’s only scary every now and then.

The wine business seems to have a lot of self-satisfied pricks and smug dunces, but not a lot of people who are manifestly evil. We need some of that. We need someone with Newt Gingrich’s personal warmth, George Soros’s air of conspiratorial ubiquity, and Goldman-Sachs’ assumption of infinite personal entitlement, the kind of person who’d set fire to a competitor’s vineyard and pin the crime on the hard-working vineyard manager who’s supporting 37 relatives back in Mexico. It would be a lot more interesting if we could identify a real rat-bastard who deserved every bad thing anyone ever said about them, so we could say lots of bad things with no feeling of guilt or accountability.

I don’t know who that might be; I’m out of ideas. But if I could find someone like that, blogging would be a lot more fun.

UPDATE: If you’re not reading the comments on this post, you’re missing all the fun.


  • Samantha Dugan

    You could hate me if it will make your experience better.

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    I’ll take one for the team. I usually have to play the bad cop in these sorts of things.

  • Wally

    Nah, you guys are too nice. It would never work. If only we could find a real jerk who just shoots his mouth off in a feeble attempt at cheap laughs. Not me, of course. I’m bi-winning.

  • Tom Johnson

    OK, listen: it’s nice of you guys to volunteer to be evil — and its especially nice of Samantha, since I think we could work some miracles with her bad-girl wardrobe.

    But there is also a matter of scale. We need someone huge and influential. We may have to assemble our evil nemesis from parts of other, minor evil players.

    But seriously: Wine Curmudgeon, evil? Nobody’s going to buy that.

  • Steve McIntosh

    I like it. You’re really on to something, but Tom’s composite approach might have to tide us over until someone genuinely evil volunteers. We could put this dastardly nemesis together like a Mr. Potato Head – essential components being disgusting wealth, a disdain for the environment, striking good looks, and a penchant for unapologetic fraud.

    Someone else shold take it from here. Choosing the face ought to be a real hoot and I don’t want to hoard all the fun.

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    Didn’t Steve sort of describe Donald Trump, who may get into the wine business if he buys the bankrupt Kluge Estate?

  • John Kelly

    Well, you could do what most of the newsotainment media seems to do these days – you know, take a few reference points from reality and then… just make shit up.

    Isn’t that sort of what the “natural wine” crowd has been doing? The “if it’s over 14% it sucks” bunch? How about the makers of Mondovino? All that has to be done is to set up a simpleminded us vs. them narrative with one side villified by the other. Somewhere out there there is a Gordon Gekko just waiting to be created.

    But Tom, you’re right – in this industry we’re mostly just too nice. Hey, there’s room for everybody. Your preferences are just as valid as mine. Why can’t we all just get along? Kumbaya.

  • Tom Johnson

    I think John and Curmudgeon are onto something. First, as I understand it, John is suggesting that we generate from scratch a set of characteristics that would make a person so manifestly evil that they would be universally reviled.

    To shortcut that creative process, I suggest we use Trump as a model. Imagine, if you will, Donald Trump swaggering into Napa to lecture the wine business on…well, everything. That thought experiment will produce our set of attributes.

    So let me get things started with the first two attributes:

    1. Our wine industry Satan has to be appallingly rich, but in a highly leveraged, marginally slimy way
    2. He or she has to have really, really terrible hair

    What else?

  • John Kelly

    I like where this is going. May I add:
    3. It needs to be a man (’cause I feel weird hating on a woman).
    4. French accent, but not French – Belgian, and with a coterie of young, fatuous “personal secretaries.”
    5. Hints, but no confirmation, that his financing comes from the Russian Mafia, or the Chinese government. Or Archer Daniels Midland.

  • Steve McIntosh

    Sorry, can’t resist. I’m wading in with a start:

    Jeff likes The Donald, so we’ll go with him for disgusting wealth. But if we’re sticking with wine figures, we’ve got all sorts of options – Jess Jackson, Don Bryant, Tony Terlato, Bill Harlan….lots of options.

    For looks, I’m going to go with Jean-Charles Boisset. Being a Francophile and having a hyphenated first name can only increase scoundrel points.

    With so many eco-do-gooders we may have to draw from outside the wine world to fill the environmental antagonist role. Dick Cheney?

    Finally, there are almost too many players with a penchant for unapologetic fraud to choose from. Someone from Burgundy? Montalcino? Hmmm, or…Daniel Oliveros?

    I’m not going to get any work done today. Thanks, Tom.

  • Tom Johnson

    Just imagine, for a second, how much fun it’s going to be to do a Photoshop composite of this guy. Guess that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend.

    Also, I think we need to put together a press release biography.

  • Tina

    The guy should have a reputation for buying up small independently owned wineries for a pittance when they’re struggling, then firing their winemakers and replacing them all with the same high-priced consultant (also a tool).

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    Another possible model — the Russian tycoon who bought the Chelsea team in the English premier league. And I like the Belgian idea.

    Could we get John Cleese to play this guy in the movie?

  • Tom Johnson

    I think our evil prototype needs some entirely self-serving, ostentatious display of charity to justify his evil. Years ago I wrote a profile of a slimy Hollywood lawyer and every time I turned up something horrible about him he defended himself by saying, “I give money to the rain forest.”

    He needs to be someone who is obviously involved in some fashionable charity — “for the kids” — with a full-time publicist touting that involvement as evidence that the Evil One really doesn’t care about his own aggrandizement even as he lobbies for a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

  • Steve McIntosh

    Diabolically genius! With the charitable front should also come a subtle hint of subterfuge. Tina’s idea might have some legs.

    Our villain could loudly (but with a heavy-handed dose of theatrical humility) claim, “I support small independently owned wineries”, when all the while his army of predatory financiers buy the wineries’ outstanding debt for pennies on the dollar.

    Ooooh, a Wall Street angle, too! So juicy.

  • Tom Johnson

    And he has to refer to his consultant as “the best winemaker in the world, because I accept nothing but the best.” Trump would.

  • Wally

    The courts have upheld the concept of a corporation as an “person” under the law. Can we name our composite of pure evil Foster Constellation-Diageo?

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    Even better, Wally — Foster Constellation-Diageo III. And his charity — he gives millions of dollars for scholarships to the winemaking programs at UC-Davis and Fresno State.

    This sounds like the ultimate April Fool’s wine post.

  • Wally

    Nice one, WC. But when you improve on my idea you are merely standing on the shoulders of midgets.

  • Tom Johnson

    OK, the name thing is good. The “III” really works for me.

    Now he needs a nickname, which will be how he refers to himself in the third person. It would help if the nickname lacked self awareness. He uses that nickname on all his properties the way Trump uses “Trump.”

    My suggestion: The Hammerhead. But I’m only 40% confident that works.

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    The in, “When the Entrepreneur donates money to a worthy cause, you know he has done his due diligence and the cause is truly worthy.”

  • Wally

    Tom, You need to involve your old Prism writing partner. This reminds me (in a good way) of the stuff from back then.

  • Tom Johnson

    The Entrepreneur®

  • Thomas Pellechia

    Does anyone know if the head of the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of America fits any of the above criteria?

    Ask Tom Wark. I’m sure he either has a dossier or a dart board with the guys picture on it.

  • Tom Johnson

    No, wait! “The Contrapreneur, because I go into every situation and show them how they’re doing it wrong.”

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    You can tell we don’t have a lot of work to do today, eh? Or that we do, and decided not to do it.