Shameful Wine Trends of 2014: A Look Back at Some of the Year’s Worsts

2014 was a busy year wine in the wine world. Looking back, one can see an exciting number of emerging producers, regions and trends that will serve to enrich the wine industry in the coming years. Yet the year was also rife with a number of not so noteworthy moments that ranged from shameful to downright abhorrent.  

Here, we take a look back at some of the worst wine trends of 2014.

Wine-Lite

It seems that every year, another monstrosity masquerading as wine is introduced into the market. Last year, it was sugary cola and passion fruit flavored “wine.”  This year, it’s diet.  

Earlier this year, New Zealand’s historic Brancott Winery introduced Flight Song, a line of low-calorie wines that promise 20% less calories than comparable wines. And Brancott’s not alone, joining the ranks of Betheny Frankel’s Skinny Girl and Treasury Wine Estates’ the Skinny Vine. Billionaire Mark Cuban is even getting in on the action and on this season of ABC’s Shark Tank, he invested $150,000 into the struggling startup Bon Affair, a line of diet wine spritzers infused with electrolytes.        

Hoping to target women in their 20s-30s, these low-calorie wines are achieved by harvesting the grapes several weeks earlier to limit the ripening of sugar. Yet by harvesting early, not only is sugar lost but many of the wine’s flavor components are as well. Furthermore, as a normal glass of wine generally contains only around 120 calories, are consumers so willing to sacrifice both the taste and quality of a wine to shave off a mere 25 calories? Doubtful.

So let’s stop blaming the wine for weight gain and remember that: “Wine doesn’t make you fat, but eating a pizza when drunk does,” said Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly.

Counterfeiting and Forgeries

Perhaps the biggest wine industry scandal of the year was the large-scale wine counterfeiting scheme propagated by Rudy Kurniawan, a wealthy wine collector from Indonesia. After moving to the United States, Kurniawan began counterfeiting cult, collectable wines to sell to wealthy collectors by pouring mixtures of lower priced wines into empty bottles he got from restaurants and affixing them with forged wine labels. Convicted of fraud, Kurniawan was sentenced to ten years in prison and ordered to repay $28 million to his victims.

In Italy, Tuscany was rocked by a similar scandal in which Italian police seized 160,000 liters of bulk wine that was set to be passed off as prized Brunello di Montalcino. The wines seized were affixed with fabricated labels and forged documents attesting to their authenticity and if sold, could have yielded up to $7 million dollars.  

Worst yet, this was not the first occurrence of counterfeiting in Tuscany this year as several months prior, Italian authorities confiscated more than 30,000 bottles of cheap wine posing as Brunello and Chianti from wineries and shops throughout Italy.  

Champagne Turns Up the Heat

We all know that sex sells, but this year, some of the wine industry’s in-your-face antics got downright dirty.  

No stranger to baring it all, Kim Kardashian made headlines again in 2014 for an infamous, scantily clothed pose that featured the star on the cover of Paper Magazine popping a Champagne bottle and pouring the wine into the balanced glass on her derrière.

The British grocery store Asda's ad for Pierre Darcy Champagne | Asda

The British grocery store Asda's ad for Pierre Darcy Champagne | Asda

While many claimed the original photograph Kardashian was replicating was racist and sexist, others found immense pleasure in attempting to recreate the shot. British grocery store Asda even went as far as recreating the shot with a Kardashian look alike for a marketing campaign intending to sell Pierre Darcy Champagne, retitling the shot “Don’t Break the Budget.”   

And Champagne was not content to remain on the “back end” of things either as this year also witnessed the release of specialty Champagne glasses modeled after model Kate Moss’s left breast. Apparently unaware that true champagne drinkers do not drink from coups and operating under the false assumption that the original champagne glasses were modeled after Marie Antoinette’s own breasts, London based Restaurant 34 commissioned the glasses, which are sold in the restaurant for the hefty price of $500 for a pair.  

Stop Picking on the Little Guy!

2014 was also the year that saw an increase in legislation targeting both wineries and individuals in which the “Davids” of the wine industry fell victim to the Goliath of outdated and overreaching regulations.

The first targeted was Pennsylvania lawyer Arthur Goldman who had his $160,000 wine collection seized after being accused of violating the state’s antiquated liquor laws when he sold wine from his cellar at cost to a small group of friends. While Goldman claims the wine was not intended to be sold on a large scale and was in fact his personal wine collection, the 2,477 bottles are set to be destroyed by the state.  

Next to fall victim was Castro’s Westover Winery which was fined an exorbitant $115,000 for its usage of volunteer workers. The Department of Industrial Relations claimed these volunteers were in fact illegally unpaid workers and has fined Westover Winery for failure to pay minimum wage, failure to provide wage statements and a failure to provide workers’ compensation insurance. The smalltime winery, which was open only eleven hours each week and brought in a mere $11,000 a year in profits, crumbled under the fine as was forced to close its doors as a result.

And finally, blogger Jayne Powell who writes under the name “Champagne Jayne” and who has worked for more than 10 years hosting classes, tours and tastings to promote the region of Champagne, found herself the target of legislation when the Comité Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) brought two lawsuits against her for copyright infringement for her inclusion of other sparkling wines on both her social media and blog pages. The CIVC’s heavy handed approach provoked strong reactions from many around the wine world and has even led to a boycott of Champagne amongst some in the industry.

What were some of the other shameful wine trends you noticed in 2014?