Meet the Sommelier Bro Who Is Trolling the Wine Industry
Adam Vourvoulis has been trolling the wine industry with a very simple formula: a new meme that exposes the elitism surrounding wine every day.
Photo courtesy of Adam Vourvoulis
If there is one community in the food and drink world that needs to take a chill pill every once in awhile, it's the wine world. And young people unaccustomed to the world of disposable income and leisurely dining out are more inclined to order a beer or cocktail than a bottle of wine, often thanks to how overwhelming the ordering process can be.
This is where Adam Vourvoulis, a.k.a. @naturalwhine, comes in.
For the past year, he's been trolling the hell out of the wine industry with a very simple formula: memes that expose the elitism surrounding certain wines every day. Some memes are more clever than others but there is no denying that his trolliness is challenging the established norms of wine industry.
If Vourvoulis's name sounds familiar, it is because he is one-half of the dynamic duo that created the world's first wine rave and hashtag-ridden wine menu, the latter of which catapulted him into becoming one of the most loathed individuals in the American restaurant world. While it may be easy to just dismiss him as another troll on the interwebs, his pretense-free wine attitude is definitely resonating with other wine-loving Millennials. He has worked in some of Los Angeles's most prestigious restaurants—including Osteria Mozza, Ink, and Trois Mec—so the man knows his wines.
We caught up with Vourvoulis to find more about his wine memes and whe hopes to accomplish with them.
MUNCHIES: Why do you hate the wine industry so much? Adam Vourvoulis: I wouldn't say I hate it. I just think we've been doing it all wrong. I think we could do it better. I'm in the punk-rock-meets-Backstreet-Boys school of the wine industry. I think it lost its way and turned into luxury when that's not what it is really about.]
What is the wine industry about then? First and foremost, it is all about fun. It's alcohol. The process of making wine is simple: Get grapes, put them in a container, wait a few weeks, and then bam! You've got wine. Now, is this great wine? Will this wine be the one that will win awards? That is in the eye of the beholder. Wine is deeper than all of this. It is about a sense of place and being around people and celebration. It's not about bragging and showing off online. It's not about unicorn wines. It's not about expensive Champagne.
Fetishizing wine in any way is the problem—even cheap stuff. I guess I am just starting a campaign of sorts. Instead of spending $100 or more on a bottle of wine, spend $50 and use the rest of the money for a charity, please.
But wouldn't that hurt your job as a wine director for a premium restaurant? Almost all of the wines at the place I work at are under $100. I want people to learn that buying two bottles of $50 wine is way better than one bottle of $100. Just think about where your money is going. Also, I'm lucky that the restaurant in LA I currently work at is owned and operated by mostly young people who understand and support my posts.
You describe yourself as a "wine activist" on your Instagram account's bio. What exactly does that mean? Part of it is tongue-in-cheek. Think about it: The concept of a "wine activist" is a little bit ridiculous. I'm just trying to inform a group of people who think of wine as being this elitist thing that there is much more out there to explore in wine. I don't think it is possible to completely take the pretentiousness out of wine. That is like saying, "I want to take the pretentiousness out of collecting Rolexes." I just want to make a social commentary on it, even though I am getting a shit-ton of hate for it.
What initially sparked @natural_whine? I would say this was the natural evolution of the wine rave. My social consciousness got the best of me and while riding LA's public transit to work, I realized that I was part of the wine problem. Obviously you spend a lot of time on your phone on the bus in LA; thus I started making memes to entertain myself. If I had to choose between giving up on memes or wine, I would choose wines. I've been doing this for a year, but I had remained anonymous until recently. One day, I just said "fuck it!" and put myself out there. Surprisingly, there are enough people out there who have similar ideologies with me.
What has the feedback been like so far? Whenever I run into other wine industry people in real life, they support me and tell me, "Keep doing what you're doing!" But they whisper it to me because obviously a lot of people are in this business to make money, and they are afraid of their support ultimately affecting their bottom lines. Just the other day, I heard that people were talking about my memes for half an hour during a dinner among industry people.
What is your goal with @natural_whine? To really change the conversation and change the idea of what wine is to the consumer. Wine is not just for a certain demographic of people; wine is for everyone. No one should be excluded from this conversation just because you've never had wine before, or because you think a certain style is better than another style. It should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Champagne is just wine. Marketing has made it what it is today—the marketing of luxury and exclusivity.
No more exploitation in wine.
Thanks for speaking with me.