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?

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  • I just watched the clip of Matt with Gordon Ramsay and the bottle of Petrus 1992.
    I was not surprised at all that an unemcumbered expert called it like it was: A french first growth company bottling swill and charging label drinkers like Ramsay $2000 USD for a lazily sealed ordinary wine. I suspect that the unlabeled petrus would be naysayed by any wine master. Kudos to Matt.
    tim rose, australia

    tim rose on
  • 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.

    Roastlamb on
  • 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.

    Steve De Long on
  • 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.

    Roastlamb on
  • 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.

    Eric LECOURS on
  • 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.

    Annie on
  • 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.

    Steve De Long on
  • 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.

    Sophia on
  • 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.

    Lenn on
  • 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 :)

    Mitch on

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