If you think wine tastings are stuffy, you’ve never seen Gary Vaynerchuk do one. His videos at WineLibrary.tv are irreverent, profane…and hilarious. We sat down with the host of the daily wine Webcast to meet the man behind the Jets spit bucket.
Fine Cooking: You’re kind of crazy (no offense), unscripted, and loud on your low-budget Web show. How do you get more than 80,000 people to watch you every day?
Vaynerchuk: I know I’m high energy and in-your-face, and that can turn people off. But anyone who’s watched more than three of my shows knows that I know a lot about wine.
Name: Gary Vaynerchuk
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FC: Who are these self-proclaimed “Vayniacs”?
Vaynerchuk: I love my fans. I think they’re so passionate because I don’t talk down to them. Look, I’m not trying to help people figure out which elevation in Argentina is perfect to grow Malbec; I’m trying to get them to understand that wine is one of the few luxuries in life that even doctors say we’re allowed to enjoy. I want it to be more inclusive rather than exclusive, which wine has been for so long. I get emails from people in their twenties up to senior citizens.
FC: You describe wines as tasting like Skittles candy, sweaty socks, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, words you don’t see in traditional tasting notes for wine. Are you trying to be flippant?
Vaynerchuk: I’m trying to rebrand wine. Most people look at the back of a bottle of wine and read, “aroma of currant leaves with a taste of slate.” Yet they’ve never licked slate, so how can they know what that tastes like? I want to use descriptions everyone can understand. And it’s not in my DNA to say I like a wine just because other critics do. If I think a wine is massively overrated or doesn’t bring the thunder, I say so.
FC: “Bring the thunder”?
Vaynerchuk: That’s my ultimate stamp of approval. My buddies and I started saying that when we were like 12 or 13-you made a basket or were good at Nintendo, you brought the thunder. One day it just slipped out on my Webcast and people loved it.
FC: When you rate a wine poorly, doesn’t that hurt sales at your store?
Vaynerchuk: Ask my dad; he owns the place. Fortunately, he’s very supportive of what I do. I can’t say I like something if I don’t. And I’m not asking people to trust me more than they trust the wine snobs. My message is, Don’t trust anybody. Trust your own palate.
FC: Give me an example of one of your more memorable Webcasts?
Vaynerchuk: I went outside and tasted during a snowstorm, to show how temperature can affect wine.
FC: You’ve appeared on Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O’Brien; how does it feel to be a wine rock star?
Vaynerchuk: I think I’m bigger than Oprah, but I’m nobody. I’m confident, and I’m also very hungry. I think that saves my ass to some degree, that I’m this great contradiction.
FC: At what moment did you feel you had “made it”?
Vaynerchuk: I’m not there yet. My dream is to buy my all-time favorite team, the New York Jets. So I still have a lot to do.