Drinking the Kool Aid


Every so often, somebody gives me a phrase I really can’t let go of. UK-born PR person, Louise Hurren, who earns most of her living by helping small Languedoc producers gain some kind of visibility outside their region, did precisely that when she used the expression I guess I must have drunk the Kool Aid, because I felt utterly enthused about – well, everything” in a nice recent blog post. She was writing about the seventh annual wine bloggers conference in California, and it was the combination of wine bloggers and Kool Aid that really worked for me. For those who have forgotten, or who are too young to recall, Wikipedia helpfully offers this reminder that: 


Drinking the Kool-Aid” is a figure of speech commonly used in the United States that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination… The phrase derives from the November 1978 Jonestown deaths, where members of the Peoples Temple, who were followers of the Reverend Jim Jones committed suicide by drinking a mixture of a powdered soft drink flavoring agent laced with cyanide.

What a perfect description, I thought, of so many wine bloggers and, indeed, other wine writers and enthusiasts: people who have become so enthused about wine in general, or a particular region or style – and quite especially ‘natural’ wine – that any critical faculties they may ever have possessed, seem to have been totally nullified. 

Almost every wine region covered in Decanter magazine (and most other similar publications) is described in such glowing, uncritical terms that I regularly have to check that I’m not reading a piece of advertorial, paid for by the area concerned.  ‘Natural’ winemakers like Frank Cornlissen, self-taught producer of some pricy but ludicrously faulty wines, are written about indulgently by bloggers who would struggle to find a single positive word to say about a popular commercial brand. 

On one side of the fence, the cork-supporting Kool Aid drinkers applaud the improvement in the quality of natural closures and see no real cause for concern that at least one bottle in every eight or nine cases of £40-per-bottle Burgundy is still spoiled by TCA (and a lot more are randomly oxidised). And on the other, the screwcap gang refuse to understand why the world hasn’t seen the logic of their argument and rushed to seal Chateau Margaux with the same closure as San Pelegrino.

Among some of other most obvious cases of Kool Aid consumption are the authors of articles and books about wine and health with titles like “Why Wine is Good For Your Heart” that present a laughably one-sided and fundamentally misleading argument. (For anyone who’s interested, wine really is good for us – but only in annoyingly meagre doses of less than a glass per day).

Of course, the Kool Aid drinkers – and some more balanced wine lovers – regularly accuse me of being a one man ice bucket challenge, a glass-half-empty type who’s always more than ready to find fault. And I plead guilty as charged: the more fawning the courtiers the greater the need for the monarch to have his jester.

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