All month long, we are paying homage to the mighty grape. Grab a glass and join us as we Wine Down.
“I’m not interested in wine drinkers. Wine drinkers are a lost cause to me.” That’s Adam Vourvoulis: co-creator of the wine rave, a series of dance parties where Riesling is served in shot glasses and used to make glow-in-the-dark cocktails. He’s also a sommelier who has worked at L.A. hot spots like Trois Mec, ink. and Mozza, and landed on Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers” this year.
If this is the first you’re hearing of this rule-snubbing somm, it won’t be the last. Once you get past the glow sticks and trucker hats, you’ll find a sommelier on a mission. Vourvoulis is knocking the wine world off its pedestal and bringing it back down to earth and into the coffee mugs and Solo cups of anyone who’s ever been intimidated by the grape, noble or otherwise.
Vourvoulis started the wine raves about a year ago after realizing he wasn’t totally fulfilled at what should have been a dream position—working as the wine director on the opening team at Trois Mec. He and partner Maxwell Leer, formerly of Bestia, hosted about 10 raves, where partiers let down their hair and enjoyed wine in an entirely new way.
Wine writer Marissa A. Ross of blog Wine. All the Time. was skeptical at first, but then pleasantly surprised by the rave she attended. “It [wasn’t] ‘rave-y’ in the sense that I was thinking, like EDM, JNCOs and pacifiers. It [was] just a super fun, glow-in-the-dark dance party with dope wines. What's not to enjoy?” Now, Ross and Vourvoulis are teaming up on their own project.
Taking the place of those raves at the moment, however, is Vourvoulis’s Instagram account, @natural_whine—his primary outlet for debunking wine stereotypes and injecting a little humor into the field. “I was bored, and I just started doing it,” he says. "I got great feedback, and the next thing I knew, 200 followers became 3,000.”
Some favorites are his Instagram “starter pack” posts, like the “I love wine!! But I have really bad taste” collection and the cheeky post for somms who “have overrated, generic taste.” He’s not afraid to dig at food personalities, or politicians, and doesn’t spare himself either. He’s also mastered the use of just the right Kanye meme. And then there are the T-shirts with messages like “The Anti-Wine Club,” which have become a thriving venture in their own right.
“People that are upset about it are taking it, and themselves, too seriously,” Ross says. “Take what you do seriously, always, but if you can't look at yourself and laugh every once in a while, you have bigger problems than Adam's Instagram account.”
The funny thing is that Vourvoulis recognizes the inherent problem with Instagram as a medium. “Social media in general has perpetuated a false sense of reality of what we think our peers are doing,” he says. Nothing irritates him more than wine buffs posting expensive bottles and bragging about finding their “unicorn wine”—that incomparable, elusive bottle—and he takes issue with the false fortification haughty social media posts build around the wine world. “No one should be embarrassed that they’re buying wine at the grocery store.”
Well aware of Instagram’s limits, he uses his account as satire. No, Vourvoulis isn’t actually a bro. “It’s my public persona,” he explains.
And like all great satirists, Vourvoulis has a message. Sure, he loves French wine as much as the next somm, but sustainability is more important to him than sourcing a fancy bottle of Bordeaux for Hatchet Hall, the restaurant where he currently works.
“I don’t want to sound like a weird hippie that drinks kombucha and eats granola,” he says, but “growing up in L.A., drought and pollution have always been part of the conversation. I want people to buy ethically.”
That’s one of the reasons he’s a fan of canned wine: It’s better for the environment and easier to ship. He’s even releasing his own line of wine with Andrew Jones of wine label Fiction, which puts out some of the best canned wine in the country right now. Vourvoulis also encourages everyone to drink as locally as possible. “All 50 states grow grapes. It’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere.”
Choosing the wine for Hatchet Hall, staying hilarious on his Instagram account and growing his T-shirt business, Vourvoulis has his hands full. But will the wine raves that originally put him in the Day-Glo limelight ever return?
“They’ll come back,” Vourvoulis promises. “It’s like, you do an album or two, go off. And it’ll be the weird experimental one only the fans will like. Then we’ll get the band back together.”
In the meantime, check out Vourvoulis’s current wine recs. If they’re not available in your area, he urges you not to shy away from talking to the sellers at your local wineshop to see what else is out there. And don’t forget to follow @natural_whine on Instagram. Just don’t brag about your #unicornwine, or you might become the subject of Vourvoulis’s next meme.
Check out Vourvoulis’s top six wines you should be drinking now.
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