Point/Counterpoint on the History of the Term Spoofulation

I wrote an article several weeks ago about spoofulation and modern wine.

I received a note this morning from Harmon Skurnik on the origins of the term Spoofulation. Mr. Skurnik has been gracious enough to let me print his contribution here. I am also printing the response from Michael Wheeler, who I have previously credited as the popularizer of the term.

Harmon Skurnik, along with his brother Michael Skurnik, is a partner in Michael Skurnik Wines in New York. In addition to being a distributor, they are also the national importer of Terry Thiese's German, Austrian and Champagne selections. Over a decade ago, Michael and Harmon created a new standard in wine distribution that is being followed by other companies around the country and in many ways the emergence and success of their company marked a significant break in the dominance of the wine trade by old-time liquor/wine wholesalers. See my article about Sidney Frank.

Mr. Wheeler is a former salesman at Winebow and later Michael Skurnik Wines, and is now a partner in Polaner Selections, also a distributor in New York. Doug Polaner, who founded Polaner Selections along with Tina Fischer, is also an alumnus of Skurnik wines. Polaner Selections is part of a newer wave of wine distributors, who draw on the earlier work of the Skurniks.


Point: From Harmon Skurnik
Dear Joe:

I just read your "Christmas Spooftide Carol" however - and I would like to point out some incorrect historical references that appear in the following paragraph:

"I have received many inquiries lately about the origin of the word Spoofulation. While there is some controvery about the origin of the word itself, there is little question that the popularizer of the term has been Michael Wheeler, the famed New York Wine Industry Personality. Anyhow, here goes....

Spoofulation is a form of manipulation which takes wine away from nature and into the technological world of fake extraction, fake aromatics, fake flavors, fake density, fake acidity, fake tannin levels, fake color and fake sugar levels.

Basically, fake wines."

First off, it is unquestionably true that Wheeliamo is the biggest "popularizer" of the term in recent years but he is not the originator of the term (nor the original "populizer")


Michael Wheeler (on the left) and Harmon Skurnik

The truth of the matter is that Mr. Wheels first heard the term while under the employ of Michael Skurnik Wines from the original "populizers" of the term, Michael and me. We used the term often at sales meetings, etc, but alas, it never meant "fake wine" - it seems to have morphed into that meaning but did not originally have that meaning at all.

The origin of the term is as follows (I have explained this to Wheels in the past but he finds it hard to believe, for some reason. But alas, it is true.

The Year Was 1990 (give or take two years) - my wife Lori and I were traveling through Napa Valley and we stopped upon the tasting room of Chateau Montelena...as we tasted through their wines, the pretty young girl behind the counter explained to us how Montelena's Chardonnay did not go through malolactic, and therefore retained some acidity and freshness, after which she uttered the famous words, "not like all those spoofulated Chardonnays being made in the Valley these days".

I proceeded to ask her what she meant by "spoofulated" and she explained that she meant the new (at the time) style of Chard i.e. full malolactic, ultra rich, lees-stirred, golden, extracted, low acid Chards that were just starting to be produced by the likes of Helen Turley etc (and which Parker, incidentally, had yet to discover). She was passionately defending Montelena's style of Chard, which was old fashioned (and frankly works quite well in the often torrid Napa
Valley)...

Lori and I both laughed at her term "spoofulation" and repeated the story several times on the trip. Upon returning home, Michael and I started using the term in sales meetings to refer to wines that were overoaked, overwrought in some way, or with too much "makeup" on them to really let the terroir, if there is any, to shine through. Not "fake
wines" - just misguided ones that are "underwined".

Anyway, I think Wheels latched onto the term at one of our sales meetings and started using it freely and adopted it as his own cry for "natural wines" - and, of course, that's a good thing - all of us who are the defenders of "real wine" (yes, even us, Joe) out there want to promote what's real and uncover the fakes. But "spoofulated" wines, as
defined by the originator, are not always bad. Coche-Dury's awesome Burgundies, for example, are "fully spoofulated" in my mind, but they have the material to withstand all that manipulation! And they are far
from "fake".

Thanks for listening - just wanted to clarify this piece of winedom history. LOL

Feel free to post my thoughts on your "blog" (I would if I knew how!)

Your friend and colleague, Harmon Skurnik


Counterpoint -- Mike Wheeler
Harmon:
I look forward to Joe's response and I will not argue that you brought the term to NYC...

But the word as used by the Montelana lady is of no interest for the true meaning of Spoofulated.

Until a word is recognized by the Webster or other dictionary's (even if slang) the word is open for discussion, empowerment, and most important "usage", and the use of this word you knew in Cali in 1990 is not the term in use now all over the country today, 16 years later....it has morphed, congrats to you for being an important part of history!!

Spoofulated as used by all the people I know is a term for many modern process's applications etc

These include: 200%+/- new oak, rottofermenters, micro ox, oak chips, de-acidifying, spin cone, reverse osmosis, adding nontraditional/not approved grapes to blends (for example Vallana Spanna's in the glory days, he added Aglianico but sold it as pure Nebb, aka he was one of the Great Historical Spoofalators, history has many examples of Spoofalicious Wines, like great Pinot with "Rhone/Algerian" juice added, I had a 59 Chambertin the other day that was awesome, been sitting in a cellar for over 40 years, yummy but not pure Pinot hence, Spoofulted)....also spoofed wines are wines where enzymes/yeast/flavors are added to "create" a wine etc

So yes Spoofulated wines can be Spoofulicious, some of these I know Joe would not love but he is correct that the current use of the term Spoofalted in 2000's wine jargon is as he describes...



- Joe Dressner 1-20-2006 4:37 pm


should i arrest somebody?
- the sheriff (guest) 1-20-2006 7:04 pm


No.
- Joe Dressner 1-20-2006 8:06 pm


ok.

- the sheriff (guest) 1-20-2006 10:37 pm


You might want to arrest Sidney Frank.
- Joe Dressner 1-20-2006 10:47 pm


Oi vey. Quite a tedious posting. This is why I'm leaving the NYC wine scene for a pumpkin patch in Burkino Fasso. Goodbye everyone!
- Jerkweed (guest) 1-21-2006 10:29 am


This is like clash of the ayatollahs all over again!

Goodness, that's an old picture, back when Mike looked like Mark Squires. I remember those days well when they would walk into Garnet and I'd always get them confused...
- BradK (guest) 1-21-2006 12:05 pm


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