Step aside sommelier, with all that knowledge of microclimates and grape varietals. The next bottle you drink might be an anonymous red called, “How Many of These Secret Gross Girl Things Have You Done, Really?“
Why? Because thanks to a partnership with winemaker Penrose Hill, BuzzFeed is getting into grapes. It’s custom-labeled Wordy Wine, to be exact. Rosé, red, or white, sold in mix-and-matchable three packs for $50. Aside from all sorts of colorful, custom messages you can have printed on the label–real pick-me-up suggestions include “Old AF” and “21”– the company is putting its own headlines onto bottles, too. You can choose the URL, or BuzzFeed will suggest one of its hits to you like “It’s Time To Find Out Which Real Housewife of New York You Are” or “Chrissy Teigen Needs You To Stop Sending Her Photos of Babies Who Look like John Legend.” Notably, however, you cannot label bottles with emoji. It’s a huge oversight, the Buzzfeed equivalent to banning nouns and verbs.
The initiative is an extension of former Quirky founder Ben Kaufman’s work leading Buzzfeed Product Labs. Its biggest hit thus far was the customizable Tasty cookbook, which sold 150,000 copies fast enough to be a New York Times bestseller, were the book part of the normally tracked publishing system rather than a printed-on-demand book. It’s all part of a product plan for “sharable identity-based content,” I’m told by the marketing department.
I crack a bottle of “The Names of Beyoncé’s Twins Might Have Just Leaked and They’re Iconic AF,” a Sonoma red blend, which I pair with some classy AF olive bar olives from my local grocery store. I picked the headline from Buzzfeed‘s suggestions. And in an apropos twist, I saw on Twitter that the confirmed names of Beyoncé’s twins have actually just gone live. How quickly the news cycle goes vintage!
“Fruity, sweet, with a spicy finish,” I write in my notes. It’s a simple crowd-pleaser of a red, indicative of a sub-$15 bottle of wine that tastes like boozy grapes. That is to say, it’s no Beyoncé. It’s no Mary-Magdalene-with-twins wine, okay? But it’s fine. Frankly, it’s good enough if you avoid using Beyoncé as your standard. Because truthfully, comparing any life experience to Beyoncé seems like a setup for disappointment.
Perhaps my mistake here was the headline. That’s on me. I should have chosen something real millennial-feeling with a much lower bar–like a Kylie Jenner. Make no mistake, this blend is totally worthy of Kylie Jenner.
Next up, I figure that if I’m drinking a BuzzFeed wine, the only way to get the full experience is to drink a BuzzFeed quiz wine. So I pop a very meta bottle of “Take This Quiz and We’ll Tell You What Type of Wine You Are.” It’s a Tuscan rosé. I haven’t taken the quiz, but since I chose a Tuscan rosé to have this label, I guess that means I’m a Tuscan rosé.
“Syrupy,” I write in my notes. It’s thick on the tongue. Too sweet. And not just sweet, but that special kind of cheap wine sweet that gives you an instant headache. (That’s a universal thing, right, internet? It’s not just me?)
So I have a headache now. And I do that thing where I have the instant wine headache but I look at this whole, already-opened bottle of chilled wine on a hot summer day and think what a waste it would be to not just drink the whole thing in a sitting anyway. (That’s another universal thing, right, internet? It’s not just me?)
With my back really against the wall here, I have a eureka moment. I go to the freezer and pull out one of those oversized ice cubes made for cocktails. A few moments in the glass, and the syrupy wine opens up. I tasted peach, grapefruit, and just a hint of a hangover if I pushed it. Then the wine became a diluted mess in my glass. I managed this problem quickly, continually topping off the glass, until an introspective buzz kicked in, offering the life revelation that I was “ironically” chugging a wine whose only namesake was a BuzzFeed quiz people take “ironically.” You know, like we all waste a sunny Saturday inside Target ironically, or leave on Lifetime ironically, or eat a whole pizza by ourselves ironically. I put the bottle back in the fridge only a little more than half empty.
As for my third bottle, that, my friends, is too special to crack for our purposes here. It’s a California white blend that I labeled with the BuzzFeed gem, “What’s the Deal with Jazz?“ This bottle, commemorating one of BuzzFeed‘s worst posts and even worse mentorship moments, is like a Pete Rose rookie card for smug, insider members of the media such as myself.
But I suspect that, again, I’m enjoying Buzzfeed wine every bit as “ironically” as everyone else will, just as Buzzfeed has foreseen by allowing you to put its headlines–the irresistible verbal equivalent of a cereal box mascot–onto a bottle. And there is certainly no joking about Buzzfeed‘s savvy business strategy here. In an era when analog media has digitized itself to survive, Buzzfeed is figuring out how to reverse that flow, to make its digital-first brand present in the real world. It’s just the sort of aggressive monetization strategy you need when you’re a media company backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital.
Buzzfeed‘s. Gotta. Get. That. Vineyard. Money.