I’ve not commented on the recently announced alliance between Martha Stewart and Gallo, who it appears will make wine for the doyen of all things domestic under the new "Martha Stewart Vintage" line of wines.

It just seemed so obvious that this announcement had very little meaning. Who knows, maybe some meaning will emerge. Maybe that meaning will be the creation of a new wine brand that produces and sells over 1 million cases annually.

However, today in Dan Berger’s weekly Vintage Experiences newsletter, we get a perfect explanation of the meaning of Martha’s new line of wine. The meaning is meaninglessness:

"But how on earth can anyone take the MSV line of wines seriously? Why would an MSV wine be any better than a Gallo of Sonoma bottle? What bothers me most about this is that it is yet one more new brand that clearly has no particular meaning … except, perhaps, to Martha Stewart fans."

Of course the thing about Dan’s interpretation of these new wines that I really appreciate his his emphasis on the idea that a wine should have meaning that goes beyond meaninglessness. This view, of course, really only has meaning to those who take wine seriously. There are those who will assess the idea that wines should have meaning will a big roll of the eyes and say, "yea, and my soap needs to have meaning too."

This should tell you a couple things. First, it should tell you that if you do believe that wine should have meaning then Dan Berger’s newsletter is probably something you should be reading. It should also tell you that meaning is in the mind of the beholder. Dan knows this and he knows his audience too.

If you are so inclined, here is the best article that attempts to eek out some sort of meaning of the new line of Martha Stewart wines. I’ll settle for Dan’s interpretation of it’s meaning: meaninglessness.

10 Responses

  1. Ron - September 20, 2007

    Maybe the first bottles will be called, behind bars, Dirty Martha or Swindle vine, or Mad Market Martha Timer wines….. Amazing what people get away with and then get their own show!!!! Were did ethics and values go.

  2. Roger Mills - September 20, 2007

    The “meaning” I think falls into the category of a famous showman’s quote about a certain type of person born every minute. But as I write that, I realize that although I don’t consider myself a “wine snob”, thousands of K-Mart shoppers probably would. It’s always interesting when I travel outside my big city sphere of sophistication, to be reminded that most of the country loves the WWF. What better wine to watch that show with? (I’ll have a case of Martha and some of them pillow cases too.) Damn, I am a snob.

  3. Terry Hughes - September 20, 2007

    You know, wine snobs and smarties, now that Leona Helmsley’s finally dead, her Marthaness is all we have. She’s the Richard Nixon of the rich bitch set. I for one am glad we still have her to kick around.
    What I want to see on one of her TV shows is her serving this stuff to her “friends” (cowering employees) on a set tricked up to look like her estate in Westchester. These people, who aren’t trained actors even if they are expert in dissembling, would surely telegraph their true opinion of the wine.
    BTW, just thinking for two seconds about Hearty Burgundy is giving me 60s flashbacks. Now that I think of it, it tasted a lot like Shiraz.

  4. Jeff P-D - September 20, 2007

    Holy crap — this announcement and the subsequent assessments are RICH with meaning! I love this! Wine as a commodity. Wine as a product. Wine as a pawn in the world of commerce. The art of winemaking reduced to signatures on a contract. I can see a new reality TV show in the making… Martha Stewart Vineyard versus Two Buck Chuck. I’d watch just to see the divas actually drink what’s in the bottles that bear their names!
    But there is more to this story than just the raw commerce of it all. There is something about character and the character of wine. The wines labeled “Martha Stewart Vineyard” will NOT be from Martha’s Vineyard (so to speak). The illusion is that they will bear the sophistication of the cashmere sweater and pressed linen napkins of a Martha Stewart afternoon tea. But there is no authenticity. It is a fraud. It lacks integrity. It’s plagiarism — the signature on the artist’s canvas had nothing to do with the creation of the art (even if the art, as in this case, is mass-produced “Velvet Elvis” prints that can be purchased at any flea market). But it’s intentional — Martha (rather, the Martha Industry) will want her consumers to assume the wine is of her own making.
    Perhaps the charitable thing to do would be to wish Marta well, and to join in a chorus of “cheers!” with those who will drink her (er, I mean Gallo’s) wine. But then I myself would be inauthentic.
    Thanks for something new to ponder…

  5. Ryan - September 20, 2007

    While I do like her, and admit that the first time I got laid-off I watched her show almost everyday, I think this is meaningless as a wine. It’s not as if she’s purchased a vineyard and winery, she’s having someone else make the wine. It won’t impact me, I don’t think I’ll be buying any Jailtime Juice from Martha Stewart Vintage..Coppola, now that is a celebrity wine with meaning.

  6. Anneliese - September 20, 2007

    Martha Stewart must have studied viticulture in the pokey. Or in this case, should we call it, the cooler?
    We’re all having too much fun listing possible labels. Please, allow me some fun:
    MS Big House Red
    MS Holiday Hoosegow
    or How To’s”
    Martha Stewart’s “Make Custom Wine Labels With Our Printed Pattern.”
    “Pruning Your Vines With Martha.”
    Jeezus, an entire industry will be documented by the Martha staffers in books, craft patterns, vineyard layouts, not to mention all kinds of new doodles for wine glasses.

  7. Tish - September 21, 2007

    Here is the view from Katonah 10536, aka Martha’s ‘hood:
    1) She neither knows wine nor cares much about it, personally, other than its role in the big picture of entertaining. This is purely brand extension and upscaling for her as she contiues pushing her image literally from K-Mart toward Macy’s.
    2) This wine is not for Dan or Tom, or anyone else who follows wine as an industry; we all know it’s basic juice with about $5 extra built into the price.
    3) This is more of a celebrity wine than it is anything else. The people who buy it will be buying what’s on the bottle, not what’s in it. And that’s just fine. Some people buy Manny Being Merlot for the label too.
    4)I think it is hilarious that Martha is getting into wine (and wine accessories are around the corner if not alreadyin Macy’s). She is a brilliant marketer. Unfortunately she is also a disgraceful role model as a neighbor. For those who don’t know, she had been ruthlessly trying to register the word KATONAH, our mutual hamlet, for more than a year, despite near unanimous opposition from the town and residents (background: and the situation is slouching though the trademark court system right now. I am among many people who wish her all the success in the world, but at the same time we will continue to oppose her commercial bullying, both in federal court and the court of public opinion. Once she quits the stupid name grab, we in Katonah will happily toast with a bottle of Martha’s Gallo juice.

  8. Randy - September 21, 2007

    Hey Tom, Kaz and I chatted briefly about this story on Monday’s show, and one thing that I think everyone is missing is that this is really just a targeted brand experiment. The wine itself will be released only in selected geographical areas (Portland, OR being the only west coast representative), and it’s only 15,000 cases.
    Sounds to me like a conservative experiment to see if her name matters to anyone on a bottle of wine. She and Gallo can back out without anybody practically noticing if it bombs.
    I will say that Gallo gets a really bad rap from wine enthusiasts, and although I don’t buy their bulk drugstore shelf jug wine products, I hear that the “Gallo of Sonoma” label of theirs is indeed a big cut above Carlo Rossi and the like. Anybody who reads wine blogs (or indeed, anybody who is remotely savvy about wine) is not the target market for Martha’s wine. I get the feeling that this is meant to appeal to folks who reach for Franzia box wine or even cases of Budweiser when shopping.
    And here’s the real bottom line: if she can convince non-wine drinkers to buy it and it doesn’t suck, guess what? She’s just grown the wine market. Who’s to say that the new wine enthusiast she helped create won’t end up trying something other than Martha Stewart Vintage at the local grocery store, liquor store, etc.? Think of it as a gateway brand to the world of wine.
    So whereas I’m not impressed with her personally (even though my wife is), I think I will be cheering this endeavor on ever so slightly from the sidelines.

  9. MJ - September 21, 2007

    It will have as much meaning as the absurd Fetzer made line of Emeril wines put out years ago and the same meaning as the Jerry Garcia wines put out years ago and the same meaning as the Vince Neil wines put out years ago and the same meaning as the incredibly gimmicky line-up of wines made by Celebrity Cellars (which includes a Madonna Confessions, a Dark Side of the Moon, A “KISS’ this bottling, and a Rolling Stones toungue out logo bottle) or maybe it will have the same meaning as Mick Fleetwood’s Private Cellar Chardonnay, which, of course is to say, the Martha Stewart wines will have no meaning at all, except to clog up an enormous amount of store floor space upon their release only to find their way into the close-out bin within a year. Meaningless and stupid!

  10. Arthur - November 13, 2007

    A little late to the discussion, but, the latter article you link to sums up the meaning the best at the very end: “Shares of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia rose 13 cents to $11.86 in trading on Friday.”

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