Matt Skinner, Wine Radical

Matt SkinnerMatt Skinner is a wine radical. Some would disagree, arguing that he’s just the latest invention of publishers looking to capitalize on a trend; in this case the popularity of Jamie Oliver. No, he’s a wine radical. Anyone who would attempt to convert such a traditionally wine agnostic group – tousled 20 something surfer dudes and dudettes - to the ways of the grape has to be a radical. Can he convince them to replace spliff in pocket for bottles of wine? Will new wine accessories for surfing be required? Duuuuude! He also says radical things. According to an article in the Observer, he’s plainly stated that wine snobbery is dying: “Yeah, they've got a bit of a conspiracy to mystify it for everyone, to keep the younger generation out of the club. But fortunately, they're quite old now, so they're literally dying out.” Poor fellas. It saddens me knowing that this venerable species will soon be extinct. I don’t recall ever meeting one. Can we at least save a few in the name of science? Oh, the humanity, the humanity! And will this new reign ushered in by our young Bolshevik sommelier be any less oppressive than the old one?

19 Comments

Roastlamb
Roastlamb

June 16, 2014

Likeable yes, sincere ‘passion’ no. That is a word that is over used, especially in this case. I don’t know if you ever see Matt on UK TV (Saturday Kitchen, Taste), but he lacks the charisma and personality that he needs to make his subject truly interesting.

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Yes, the surfer dude PR angle is completely ludicrous. I would imagine the average purchaser of “Thirsty Work” to be parents or grandparents of twenty-something binge-drinkers in hopes of converting them into proper young oenophiles. I would also imagine that Matt now has a great platform on which to reinvent himself in the eyes of the public, as he seems a likeable enough fellow with a sincere passion for wine.

Roastlamb
Roastlamb

June 16, 2014

I have read ‘Thirsty Work’ by Matt Skinner and it is cringeworthy. The publishers have gone out of their way to produce a Jamie Oliver clone and it does not work. There is nothing radical about Matt and I have even met him a few times (I work in the London restaurant trade) and know that he is pretty shy and uncorfortable with what the PR people are trying to turn him into. The ‘surfer dude chic’ (where does he surf – he lives in London?) will not turn people onto wine.

Eric LECOURS
Eric LECOURS

June 16, 2014

I haven’t read his book and don’t intend to as it seems to be targeted to an audience of which I am not a member. The words “radical” and “juice” are probably used more often than I would care to read. If the book serves its purpose by entertainling and educating those new to wine or a different demographic, great. It does seem like the “Naked Chef” branding may have been exploited here. Jamie Oliver was certainly authentic and believable when he hit the airways in the USA on the Food Network. Matt Skinner’s publicity seems to be attempting to portray him in a cookie cutter image of Jamie Oliver, down to the haircut and wardrobe. I would be interested to know a little more about his life before working with Jaimie Oliver.

Annie
Annie

June 16, 2014

I have to agree with all of the above I am afraid. Firstly, I know that Matt lets himself be called a sommelier – he is not a sommelier. Secondly, I feel that the lads career has been hi-jacked by PR. Matt is shy and although he may be keen on wine he does not communicate this keeness in a passionate or funny way. Seeing his woeful appearances on TV confirms this I am afraid. Please do not be fooled into believing the PR hype, Matt is not a wine radical.

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Yes, Poor Matt. Let’s face it: wine is not cool. Golf is also not cool. I enjoy both and can say in all certitude that I am definitely not cool.

Sophia
Sophia

June 16, 2014

The main problem with Matt Skinner is that he is not “passionate”, “radical”, “cool” etc. The PR company have taken an averagely talented bloke and tried to kick him into the media as the Jamie Oliver of wine … but anyone who has met Matt or read his books will know that he is not. Mitchell-Beazeley (his publishers) have taken the bold step of trying to create a star, but in all honesty, Matt Skinner is no star, just a guy who likes wine. And calling wine “juice” umpteen times per page, is not going to affect peoples drinking habits. Poor Matt I say.

Lenn
Lenn

June 16, 2014

I’ve ready Thirsty Work as well…there are a few interesting tidbits in there on the different grapes…but the rest of it is pretty “cringeworthy” I agree.

I’m just glad I didn’t PAY for the book…it was a review copy…which reminds me that I need to write that review one of these days.

Mitch
Mitch

June 16, 2014

All this criticism of Matt seems to be forgetting that the ‘goal’ of his books ARE to colloquialise for newcomers, the wonderful but sometimes scary world of wine. Using the words ‘juice’ and saying ‘grapes rock’ is not a degrading stab at the current state of the wine industry, but rather a relaxed introduction into the world of wine. I guess i fit into the book’s target market, being a 21 year old male from Sydney, Australia. I am very keen on my wines, and try to get to the wineries in the nearby Hunter Valley whenever possible. I’ll admit that his book, ‘Thirsty Work’ is very basic and covers concepts tha mostly benefit a wine novice, but that’s not to say he’s not very knowlegable about wine, simply that he’s catering to a target market.

I do agree the book has been revved up by the PR company to follow the similar path taken by Jamie Oliver, but is this not a smart strategy. There are countless wine writers out there who may write similar ‘beginner’ style books but their image can’t connect with the reader. Matt makes wine fun and sociable, which connects to the target market. For me personally, half the enjoyment of wine comes from having friends over for a BBQ, sharing good laughs and good wine.

In my opinion, Matt is a breath of fresh air in the wine industry who can channel the younger demographics attention towards wine, which can only be positive in the long-run. It doesn’t mean that all bottles over $25 will not be purchased, creating a society that exclusively enjoys quaffers, but rather he provides a stepping stone for the uneducated to beginning understanding the wonders and complexities of the wine.

If you want an expertly written and detailed analysis, go for someone like James Halliday, but don’t critise Matt for preaching the wonder of wine. And secondly, don’t become inward and snobbish in turning away newcomers, because you’re only strengthen the stereotype Matt’s wokring to breakdown.

P.S ROASTLAMB…..Matt lived in Australia till he was in his 20’s, and did plenty of surfing, as we have great beaches out here. Cheers :)

Barney
Barney

June 16, 2014

I think the problem is this. In an attempt to sell a book and create a ‘star’, Matt’s people have pushed him into being the champion of cheap wine by making out that the wine trade is stuffy, boring and old school. 2 Things (1) I work in the wine trade and know that to be incorrect and (2) as supermarkets slash their wine ranges and offer the punter, less and less choice Matt Skinner will align himself with wine that has all the vinous credentials of supermarket orange juice. If only Matt Skinner was not trying to be a Jamie Oliver he might be taken more seriously. Shame he knows little about old world wine too.

Barney The Bear.

Julia in Paris
Julia in Paris

June 16, 2014

I have been reading all sorts on the net about Matt Skinner (especially the BBC message boards), and I don’t think he is a radical, but agree that he is the creation of PR and hype. The sales of his books in the UK have totally dropped though the floor, his apperances on television (in the UK) have not been very well received and most people that I talk to that have met Matt say that he is certainly shy and not much of a ‘personality’. I think the world in still waiting for the ‘Wine Radical’!!!

Londonfromage
Londonfromage

June 16, 2014

I read with interest the opening thread of this posting that Matt Skinner is a wine radical. It seems that at the time that was written you had fallen for the PR. The truth is that Matt Skinner is already being heralded a failure by his publishers and by many people that conttribute to wine sites. His books have not really sold and the ‘surfer chic’ image that his PR team thought would make him a star has seriously missed the bullseye. Mitchell Beazely (Matt’s publishers) sent Matt on world tour to promote his book and this ate up a huge amount of their marketing spend … I have heard and it might just be rumour that the Jamie Oliver effect has backfired and the fact that MAtt never really comes accross well on TV have meant that the whole episode has been an expensive waste of money. Wine Radical??? Failed media creation more like!

Joeler
Joeler

June 16, 2014

I don’t think that people in the wine trade would disagree with the notion that wine needs to be made more fun, more easily understood and more accessible (especially in the UK), however my doubt is that Matt Skinner is not the bloke who will do this for UK consumers. Yes Matt is ‘youngish’ and relatively likeable, but on TV he comes accross a bit like Bill Granger (slightly camp and cheesey) and I actually think that this turns people off.

I do think that cynical PR behind Matt has not been great either (friend of Jamie O, surfer, ‘grapes rock man’, etc), and whilst I agree wine should be fun and unstuffy, the public in the UK are not stupid and they do view Matt as a bit of a media creation. I know a couple of guys at Mitchell-Beazeley (who publish Matt’s book) and they reckon that sales of his stuff are pretty poor considering the money spent on promoting him. Its not about status or snobbery, people have simply not embraced Matt Skinner. The ‘goal’ of Matt’s books are simply to create sales.

In my job (I sell wine) I do quite a lot of staff training so since the arrival of Matt on the scene I have been asking the people I train in groups what they think of him – the vast majority think he is OK, but nothing more, a tad unispiring even. This is not unfair criticism of Matt Skinner as once you get in the media, and get pushed by Jamie Oliver people in UK will always be a bit wary of you.

Bruno
Bruno

June 16, 2014

Mitch, what you say is true and I agree. I just Matt Skinner and thw whole PR vehicle being used to promote him in the UK really sick-making. I don’t think he is doing himself any favours trying to be the hip young wine dude, people in the UK are certainly not falling for it, and his appearances on TV are poor.

But, as you say, if means teenagers start drinking wine then hooray.

Mitch
Mitch

June 16, 2014

I agree Steve….whilst Matt’s book isn’t a sophisitcated anaylsis into every crevasse of the wine world, it does the job by attempting to make wine cool. I had a laugh at your previous comment about your ‘uncool’ passions of golf and wine…and thought that people like matt skinner and young golfers like aaron baddeley are the new breed to continue their respective passions, and the stiff upper-lipped comments from many in this blog prove that there is a status problem in wine. It’s something i think the wine industry could do without.

Golf and wine are what you make of them Steve….plenty of potential for them to ‘rock out’ mate!

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Thanks for the detailed and non-cynical comments, Mitch. I’m all for anything that makes wine more fun and less intimidating especially for people just getting started. Maybe I’m just too uncool* to respond to the Thirsty Work lingo, but the book doesn’t really get under my skin. What does bother me is the misguided time and effort of some of the irony-challenged commentators above. Please get a life people and thank you for posting on my site.

*Come to think of it, “grapes rock” sounds about as cool as “school rocks” or “church rocks” My mind is imploding. What is cool?

Roastlamb
Roastlamb

June 16, 2014

I have read 'Thirsty Work' by Matt Skinner and it is cringeworthy. The publishers have gone out of their way to produce a Jamie Oliver clone and it does not work. There is nothing radical about Matt and I have even met him a few times (I work in the London restaurant trade) and know that he is pretty shy and uncorfortable with what the PR people are trying to turn him into. The 'surfer dude chic' (where does he surf – he lives in London?) will not turn people onto wine.

Jennifer
Jennifer

June 16, 2014

I really don’t know who this guy is. I read about his book and did a google search and wound up here. I could care less if he’s famous or not or if uses the correct terminology or not. I would like to address the person who said “Wine is not cool”. I highly disagree. My friends and i are all rocker chicks, we are all 33 (OK Kate is 32) and are pretty cool if I must say so myself. And we have been drinking wine for at least 7 years. None of us are connesieurs but we do keep a journal listing out comments which range from the snobbish “it has oak overtones” to the blunt “this wine tastes crap”. We tend to be more on the blunt side of things and admittedly the comments become more base the more wine we drink. So screw that. Wine IS cool. or can be if you just let it.

Jo
Jo

June 16, 2014

I saw Matt Skinner at the Wine Show in London and didn’t think he was very good at all. He might know about wine, but my goodness, you wouldn’t want to watch the boy on TV.

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