Something a bit different to kick off Season 3…our first ever EXPLICIT episode!
It’s not what you’re thinking. Just a few gentle sweary words. Because this one is all about Fake Booze: a bitter, twisted, dark and damp website stuffed full of satire lampooning the world of wine and drinks, whose strapline is, ‘Like truth, but better’.
It’s the brainchild of hitherto respectable drinks journalist Chris Losh and it’s painfully funny, so we wanted to get Chris on the show to bring us bang up to date with the very latest headlines, breaking news and absurd sideswipes at the world of booze.
The episode features everything from James Bond to human sacrifice via hobbits, Ginfandel, dinosaurs, hungover graduates and Sea-vignon Blanc. We definitely come in for a bit of a pasting too.
On top of all that, we manage to be serious for a moment and recommend a FANTASTIC value Sicilian red. Enjoy the show!
Feudo di Santa Tresa Rina Russa Frappato 2019, 13%
A juicy, upbeat, lighter-bodied red perfect for autumn or spring drinking. Amazing value for money – plus it’s organic and suitable for vegans. On the back label it says, ‘In Sicily we drink it slightly chilled with grilled tuna.’ And who are we to argue?! But we did have it with duck, and it was delicious.
Peter Richards MW (PR): Congratulations on Fake Booze turning one. How would you sum up Fake Booze on the occasion of its anniversary?
Chris Losh (CL): Thanks Pete. As you say, we’re one year old now. Like all new-borns Fake Booze has spent most of the last year squawking, whingeing and spraying crap in all directions. Unlike new-borns, we have no intention of stopping. When we started we had no real idea whether the drinks world would be able to keep a satirical website in content. There are, after all, plenty of hilarious drinks publications out there – but none of them, as far as we know, are intentional. So in the dark hours before our launch, we worried that perhaps there was a reason for that. Maybe, just maybe, we thought, the drinks world wasn’t as ripe for comedy as we thought.
PR: But it didn’t work out that way?
CL: God no. It turns out we needn’t have worried. The last 12 months have seen a constant procession of terrible ideas, awful product launches and wincingly self-defeating PR. Just like we’d hoped, frankly. If brand managers, marketers, journalists and legislators didn’t keep pumping out utter bilge, we’d have nothing to write about. So, from the bottom of our heart, thank you everyone in the drinks world! Genuinely: we couldn’t have done it without you.
Susie Barrie MW (SB): Well, congratulations again. Now, we know you’ve done a quiz – the Big Fake Booze Birthday Quiz . Kind of a party game, which our listeners can join in on. And this quiz picks up on 10 high accurate wine stories you’ve run over the past year. What we’d like to do is split the quiz, if that’s OK – do half now then we’ll finish with the final half later on. To be clear from the start, there are no prizes, and we probably can’t even provide the answers because they’re too rude…but anyway, off you.
CL: Well certainly if not rude then probably libellous. I’d just like to say the prize is ismply the joy of humour, and listening to your marvellous podcast. That’s prize enough for everyone!
SB: We’re in the firing line now, aren’t we?
PR: Is he being serious?!
CL: What do you think?! So look, I’m sure your listeners are well informed about what’s happening in the world of wine. Sadly that knowledge is going to be absolutely no use to them here. SO I’ll read out the questions. All the answers are on the website so feel free to cheat and look them up on that.
1: A topic we’re all interested in. Which of these is a key element in the creation of sherry?
2: This has been a difficult year for wineries, struggling with climatic conditions best described as biblical. So which wine region is planning a human sacrifice to patch things up with God?
Quite tempting to put ‘all of the above’ for that one. But only one answer.
3: One for the MW students, who love esoterica. I’m sure you’d agree, Peter and Susie, as you are both Masters of W*nk. What is Ginfandel?
Given this isn’t a website about fantasy fiction, you could probably work out the answer isn’t number 3, but I just liked the idea of a hobbit named Ginfandel.
4: Earlier this year we started the crap tasting awards, to recognise mediocrity, drivel and uncontrolled ego in wine writing. For too long, dreadful notes have been bypassed, and that had to change. As we put it at the time: ‘The crap tasting note of the year, because bad deserves better.’ Which of our Crap Tasting Note of the Year winners included the line ‘What if Spring were eternal?’
Poking around on the website for the crap tasting awards is a brilliant way to waste many hours of your life and make you feel better for not being a complete idiot.
PR: there are some strong entries on there.
CL: There are indeed. Tragically none of yours. I was hoping you’d submit some!
SB: Ours got lost.
PR: I caught Susie trying to send a couple of mine over….
CL: It’s a form of therapy sending them in. Like lancing a boil/
5: The final question in this half. Because there’s only so much excitement you can take in one go. We don’t just write about wine on Fake Booze, because stupidity is pretty much universal. So which Fake Booze character wanted to build a wall between Ireland and Islay?
Incidentally, this is very much part of Fake Booze: fictional characters who aren’t entirely fictional. Sometimes you might think you know who they might be. But it’s a fictional universe like the real world but a bit more so.
SB: I sit there thinking: who is that?!
PR: Your made-up names are a joy in themselves. Moving on…you did get a scoop from famous champagne house Bollinger as their brand gears up to partner with the James Bond franchise as its new film No Time To Die, didn’t you?
CL: Originally they were gonna do one for plus-size James Bond that was going to be ‘No Time To Diet’. But moving on, we did get that scoop. We’re always first with the made-up news. They always get these bid-name tie-ins for Bonds. This one is a big-name tie-up, no question, with Bollinger and we got to talk to chef to cave Danée Grand. He described it as being, ‘a perfect fit. Just like Bond films, fans wait for our launches with baited breath. Plus we’re rich, old and worth a fortune.’ He did amit, however, there was, ‘slightly less wood in our cellars than in Daniel Craig’s acting.’
PR: But there’s something special about the packaging of the new tie-in Bolly release, isn’t there?
CL: I can’t tell you how exciting this is. Nothing gets a writer’s adrenalin pumping quite like a packaging story. It’s what we live for. The Covid – sorry, Cuvée 007 features the 007 logo on the foil. It’s a logo…but on a foil. Incredible. Even more excitingly, the bottle itself is packaged in a cardboard box, showing a picture of the spy with his famous Aston Martin. We spoke to packaging experts who described putting a picture of a man and a car on some cardboard as ‘iconic’, ‘seminal’ and ‘lots of other tired clichés’. I spoke to Simon Paper-Cutte, expert in covering up bottles with stuff, and he said the launch was ‘a brilliant way of making your recycling more expensive and also impressing people who need to get out more.’ Bollinger, however, were quick to point out that the car ‘isn’t real’ and ‘can’t actually be driven. James Bond might be licensed to chase bad guys at high speed,’ said Danée Grand. ‘But we’re just chasing money.’
PR: So all of this is about engaging champagne and film lovers, right?
CL: Completely. We had a chat with Milka Franchise, secretary of the 007 Appreciation Society. She said, ‘With this special launch, Bollinger lovers really can feel as though they’re part of an actual Bond film. In fact, with the implausible ideas, boring characters, huge budgets and unnecessarily massive expenditure it’ll be just like being back in Champagne.’
SB: I’m crying here. OK so from Bond to bins…you ran a headlining newsflash piece on Oddbins, the high street wine retailer – why was that?
CL: Ah, Oddbins. One of those things, everyone always talks about how amazing and special it is but no one ever shops there?! As far as I know, in its 60 year existence, the most money Oddins has ever made is £4.50. So news that its parent company had lost money this year was a huge story. I got hold of John Public outside a branch of his Price-Fixer supermarket. ‘I’m completely stunned,’ he said. ‘Not that they didn’t make any money, but that they’re still here. I thought they’d disappeared years ago.’
SB: So what’s been happening over recent years?
CL: Oddbins went into administration in January 2019, blaming ‘an as yet non-existent pandemic which we expect to appear in 12 months time and which will make trading impossible.’ The retailer’s current owners have said they are ‘implausibly optimistic’ about the future and will ‘continue to support the chain until we can find someone daft enough to take it off our hands. It’s still a great name,’ they told Fake Booze. ‘And it inspires real affection in everyone apart from our accountants.’ Drinks writers of a certain age all agreed that the chain ‘definitely deserved to survive’ and that the country ‘would be poorer without it’, though they personally tended to shop at Tesco ‘because it’s cheaper’.
SB: And what’s the way forward for Oddbins?
CL In a famously cut-throat retail environment, Oddbins has often struggled to make money and has been sold, closed, resurrected and lost behind the sofa on 25 separate occasions. I went to an expert, Hugh Jarrears, a business consultant who really likes to talk b*llocks for money. ‘It’s tough to run Oddbins at a profit,’ he said. ‘But the current owners can definitely make it a less unsuccessful business by cutting back the number of stores to a more manageable number. I’d suggest zero.’
SB: But it’s been an institution for a long time?!
CL: God yeah. It’s been around even longer than your podcast! Like BHS, Wooloworths and lots of other now dead retailers, it’s been a mighty if unprofitable presence on the UK high street for 50 years, famous for helping to democratise wine and break the category open for a whole new generation of drinkers. ‘It really helped people to explore,’ said famous drinks writer Francis Jobbinson. ‘Customers loved being able to get wines from all over the world for £5, served by hungover graduates who couldn’t get a proper job.’
PR: Sounds a bit like us…this is getting a little bit close to home so let’s move on…to the earth-shattering news you broke, which must have been the result of months of dogged undercover reporting, that an underwater vineyard is set to produce the world’s first ‘Sea-vignon Blanc’.
CL: Yes, lame puns are what we do very well at Fake Booze. You might have seen some stories by bored journalists in quiet months about wines being aged under the sea. That’s because it’s a great way to get lots of free press by doing something completely pointless. Well, now a French winery claims to have gone one further by planting the world’s first underwater vineyard. I spoke to Bob L’Eponge-Carré (a joke for anyone with young children) of Vins Mer-Veilleux who was adamant this was the real deal. ‘You can’t sail 50 metres around the French coast these days,’ he told us, ‘without coming across some twat putting bottles in a cage and dropping them off a boat, followed by a film crew. But these losers are totally yesterday’s news.’ Growing grapes underwater, he said, would ‘take viticulture to new heights. Or rather, depths.’
PR: And we can expect some tie-in merchandising too, is that right?
CL: I think so. I think for a wine like this the marketing is more important than the wine itself – it’s a lot like Champagne. The company is seeking approval for a new ‘Vin Sous Vagues’ appellation, and once that comes through they’ll be rolling out all kinds of merch, including pickers’ goggles, ‘Mer-vin for the Merman’ T-shirts and floating ‘I put the Mer into Merlot’ glassware. M. Eponge-Carré said, ‘We’re going to say the wines are perfect for seafood and drinking in the bath,’ says, ‘whether it’s true or not.’ He described the brand as being ‘on a mission from cod’ but that pun was so bad we terminated the interview.
PR: But there have been differences of opinion on the viability of all this…
CL: Yes, not everyone thinks this is an entirely viable business proposition, a lot like Fake Booze really. We spoke to gullible blogger, Ivan O’Scruples, who’s professionally excitable. He said the new vineyard was an ‘exciting development’ and ‘definitely the future. After all,’ he told us, ‘the bottom of the sea is probably warmer than the UK, no wetter than Germany and less likely to go up in smoke than California, Australia or, frankly, most of southern Europe.’ But less idiotic critics have raised concerns that the seabed could prove ‘unsuitable’ for grape-growing, citing, among other things, lack of oxygen, too much water and low temperatures. ‘It’s cold, dark, inhospitable and aggressively salty,’ said journo-scientist, James Fabulous. ‘It would be like trying to grow something in wine Twitter.’
PR: And of course the big question is: what if it all comes to nothing?
CL: The new venture’s owner, M. Eponge-Carré admits that the venture is a huge gamble, and the wine might not make it to market. Or, if it does, prove largely undrinkable. ‘But since the announcement there’s been a huge uptick in my social media engagement,’ he told Fake Booze. ‘And that’s far more important than taste or scientific credibility for any nascent wine brand these days. Just ask Cameron Diaz.’
SB: OK so I feel we’ve caught up with all the headlines in the wine world now – but before we say goodbye, our listeners need to hear the final questions from your Birthday Quiz.
CL: Assuming they can take the excitement. There’s nothing quite like reading out a quiz that has links to stories on a podcast. It really works…
6: Wine competitions are a huge thing because they’re a great way for hard-pressed mags to earn money. But which globally recognised drinks competition introduced new Vibranium medals this year?
Vibranium are obviously better than gold or platinum cos it doesn’t even exist.
7: Nobody wants hangers on cracking open good bottles at the end of a party. So which drinks brand is proven to ‘remove 99.9% of all guests’?
You could probably argue any of them could. Only one of them had an official study associated with it which we broke and weirdly the BBC ignored.
8: Drinks writers are a much valued presence in the booze world, at least according to themselves. But what, according to drinks writers, is ‘all crap’?
9: There’s been a lot of talk of drinks magazines engaging with a younger audience. Pointlessly. So which drinks publication stunned its critics by announcing a new era of hip celebrity-themed interviews?
I’m sure we’ve all got the latest edition of Wine Expectorator. Quality publication.
10: What, accordingly to completely made-up scientists, could be extinct in 20 years’ time?
PR: It’s a strong message. On that note, Chris Losh of Fake Booze, thank you.