Sat 12 Jul 2008
Ha ha!, no, what I actually mean is “The Gall of DeVries Public Relations in New York,” which handles PR for Gallo, but in a recent post “Naked Wine People & Blog Promotion” on fermentation, one of Tom Wark’s principles of blog promotion is “Write Really Provocative Headlines for Each Post.” So there. I might throw in a naked person too.
The point here, because you’re wondering what the hell the point is, is that I received an email press release from DeVries inspired by the forthcoming release of the movie Bottle Shock, which is based on the controversy surrounding the notorious “Judgment of Paris” tasting in 1976, a cinematic premise that sounds as engrossing as watching a bunch of wine critics sitting around a table and, you know, tasting wine, which is what they did. The movie stars Chris Pine, Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman and will be released on August 6. A rival production, The Judgment of Paris, is also in the works, but got a later start than Bottle Shock.
The point of the “Judgment of Paris” tasting, a name conferred after the fact, is that a group of wines from California, chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons, were pitted, in a blind tasting, against a group of wines from France, great and prestigious chardonnays from Burgundy and cabernets from Bordeaux, and the California wines not only showed extremely well but won. Selected as the best wines — remember, the panel was composed mainly of French winewriters — were the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 and the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 1973. The event was organized by Steven Spurrier, an Englishman who ran a wine store and school in Paris. Naturally the French were chagrined at this slap against their national honor, and the French press tried to downplay or ignore the results of the tasting, but a reporter for Time magazine was present, and his article was, as it were, the shot heard round the world. The tasting, along with the excellent vintage of 1974, declared that winemakers in California were no amateurs and that their products could stand up to and beat the best that France could offer.
So, what’s the point of the press release from DeVries?
That Gallo Family Vineyards and Gina Gallo, granddaughter of Julio Gallo, should be a source for journalists writing stories about the movie and about the famous tasting in 1976. Gallo Family Vineyards is the arm of the vast E.&.J Gallo company that produces fairly limited editions of higher-end wines from Sonoma County. Gina Gallo is a talented winemaker, and the Gallo Family wines can often be quite good, especially the Single Vineyard and Estate wines, but Gallo had absolutely nothing to do with the “Judgment of Paris” nor with the making of the movie Bottle Shock. You can learn all you need to know about that event and its aftermath on Wikipedia. Or, if you have time, you could read George M. Taber’s detailed and evocative book, “The Judgment of Paris,” on which the movie of the name is based.
Here’s the gist of the press release from DeVries:
It’s time to break out the Chardonnay and celebrate the virility of Californian wines, with Gallo Family Vineyards and the much anticipated movie release of “Bottle Shock” staring Chris Pine, Allan Rickman and Bill Pullman on Aug. 6. Encourage your readers to relive the excitement of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, where top sommeliers from around the globe shocked themselves and the world when they proclaimed Californian Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons as the best wines in the world – beating out some French classics.
Gallo Family Vineyards, one of the country’s first and largest family-owned wineries and currently the largest exporter of California wines, wants to help your readers recreate the excitement of 1976 by hosting their very own Judgment of Paris tasting experience. We can offer an interview with Gina Gallo, Gallo Family Vineyards third-generation winemaker and granddaughter of Julio Gallo, who can recommend tips on how your readers can act as “sommeliers” just like in “Bottle Shock”— and taste for themselves.
I like that, “the virility of California wines.” And of course it wasn’t “top sommeliers from around the world” that were involved in the event, but mainly a group of dour Frenchmen. I hate it when PR people don’t do their homework.
Well, the point, the real point, is that this press release will probably be the opening salvo of batteries of PR and marketing efforts by wineries in California to capitalize on the movie and the attention it will bring to the state’s wine industry. Or at least to chardonnay — I can see the marketing slogan: “Go back to chardonnay. You always loved it.” — because according to blog reports, the movie concentrates on Chateau Montelena’s white wine victory and ignores Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
So, everybody is thinking, “Whoa, remember Sideways? Man, that sucker really took off! And it was about wine!” But the ultimate questions are: Do we need another movie “about wine” this soon after Sideways, and do we need two movies about the same wine event, even though they’re made from totally different perspectives?
Come on, you know the answers to those questions. Not yes.
Bottle Shock poster image from screenhead.com.