~A long time ago, longer than I care to remember, or admit, I drank Gallo products. Not that I don’t think Gallo products are worth drinking; in fact, many of them are superior wines, as the Gallo company is one of the most sophisticated wine producers on earth, and it has spawned some fantastic winemakers as well as wine marketers.
~The Gallo products I drank those many years ago had names like Thunderbird, Twister, and Boone’s Farm. Hey, I was young!
~In any event, the story goes that the Gallo formula for Thunderbird came about after company sales reps noticed a store in Oakland selling cheap wine with packets of lemonade. The point being, Gallo saw an opportunity and seized it.
~Back then the domestic wine scene was woefully deficient. Some marvelous wines were being produced in California, but not many Americans were drinking them. United States citizens only recently started to take to table wine on a large scale, finally surpassing beer consumption in 2005 and in 2006.
~Today, with mass products like Yellow Tail and Charles Shaw wines, the latter known as Two Buck Chuck (TBC), the price of some table wines make it unreasonable for even the most novice of novices to resort to drinking T’bird and its ilk, unless of course the idea is alcohol rather than taste (T’bird comes in at 20 percent by volume).
~While the cheap table wines with mass appeal may not offer the excitement or even the adventure that vintage premium wines offer, those among us who want to get started with wine or who simply can’t afford a so-called great bottle each day at least have better options than we had 40 years ago.
~The Gallo brothers were known as ruthless, tireless, aggressive, and shrewd. They certainly were smart. They knew the domestic market and they knew how to profit from it.
~The same can arguably be said about one particular man whose family owns the Charles Shaw Brand, among many other brands.
~Fred Franzia makes himself known. He has been in trouble with the law, he was on the outs with his father after dad sold the original Franzia wine and name to corporate interests, he fights with grape growers, he petitions the Supreme Court; in other words, he may be in the Gallo mold.
~Where Franzia differs is that the Gallo family did not blatantly court the press. Franzia seems to glow in the press’ limelight, spewing as much crudeness as print will allow. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was using the press...
~Recently, an article about Fred Franzia showed up on CNNmoney.com, under Business 2.0 Magazine (which I have heard has since been discontinued, but I don’t know for sure).
~The article rehashed much of the stuff about the rise of TBC and its parent company, Bronco, plus the many outrageous things that Franzia has said and done and continues to do and say. For that, it is just an article about seeming ongoing news.
~My problem with the article is neither the subject matter nor the fact that it is old news, but what I read in the first paragraph and then subsesquent to the paragraph.
~One of the things I learned about writing as a journalist is that you need to grab the reader in the first paragraph. You can’t do that effectively with a glaring mistake such as placing Haut-Brion in Burgundy, which is what the article does.
~After encountering that glaring error, instead of reading the article, I was looking for more problems—that’s not how you want to grab the reader. The writer lost credibility.
~As the profile proceeded, the interviewer interjected himself into the interview, a style of writing that makes me feel as if there is an agenda behind the article, and that makes me feel manipulated.
~By interjecting his views or opinions into the profile, the author takes on an added responsibility to know the subject. When this particular author treated with derision the fact that after decades in the wine business Franzia refers to grapes as “varieties” instead of “varietals,” he tipped his hand.
Grapes are classified first as within a species and then as varieties within the species; wines named after grapes or showing a particular grape’s characteristics are called varietal wines or varietals for short; varieties is a noun; varietals, used to describe a wine, is an adjective.
Franzia’s reference of grapes as varieties was correct.
The writer either did not know his subject or his grammar.
Halfway through the article, I stopped reading.
~I am not against writing opinions, I’m engaging in the practice right now. But I am not crazy about interjecting opinions inside a seemingly fact-based personality profile, and I certainly am against erroneous facts.
~Fred Franzia may be all the things that people say he is and he may be half of the things he says he is. He may also be a media hound who keeps his name out there as a means of free promotion. I don’t know any of this to be or not to be true.
~I do know that the possibility existed that I might have learned something about the wine industry or at least about a particular wine company had the writer not sabotaged his own effort.
Where were the editors at money.com?
~Finally, it bothers me that the article was not written to a wine drinking audience but as a news item, which means there may be some unknowing consumers traveling Burgundy right now looking to visit Haut-Brion and to find out which grape varietals they use for their wines!
Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
September, 2007. All Rights Reserved.