Friday Rant: Signed Bottles

The last dozen or so Fridays have been filled up with recounting my recent visit to Lodi, so I have not had a decent rant in a while. Well, that all changed as I was attempting to create a semblance of order in my cellar the other day and I came across this:

 If you can’t tell from the picture, that is a signed bottle of wine. Or more precisely, an empty wine bottle signed by the winemaker (in this case, Hank Skewis, who in addition to being a prominent producer of Pinot, is also an extremely nice guy).

I never recycled the bottle since, well, it was signed—I figure you are supposed to hold onto crap like that, so I have. That got me thinking: signed wine bottles are just plain stupid.

rantDon’t get me wrong, I get that it is supposed to be a nice gesture and I appreciate the extra effort that goes into signing a bottle, but I can’t think of another product that is intended to be consumed that people sign. Can you? Have you ever seen a signed loaf of bread, carton of eggs, or a can of Chef Boyardee Beefaroni?

Even in areas where the makers of the product are well-known, would you ever wear a necktie signed by Armani or a dress signed by Christian Dior?

It just does not make sense.

I can only speak for me, but I tend not to drink signed bottles—I guess I figure that they are meant to be cherished or that someone will come along and offer me a boatload of cash for it.  So by signing the bottle, you are actually encouraging me to not drink the wine and how dumb is that? Don’t you want me to drink it so that I will buy more? Or even dumber–I think that after I drink the wine I need to hold on to the damned bottle. Why? I have no idea. I prefer to not think of myself as an idiot, but that is pretty idiotic.

I only have one autograph that I know of: Fresh out of college, when I thought I wanted to go into politics, I was walking around the senate office buildings dropping off résumés and I ran into Mohammed Ali. I said something inane like “How’s it going Champ?” as we were about to cross paths. He held up his hand and motioned me to stop. So I did (I tend to do exactly what former heavyweight champions of the world tell me to do). He then spent the next five minutes or so performing magic tricks for me.

Parkinson's or not, if this guy tells you to stop, you stop.

Parkinson’s or not, if this guy tells you to stop, you stop.

No kidding.

And he was pretty good.

At the end of the impromptu magic show, he handed me a pamphlet with his autograph already signed on it.

And I said something inane like “Gee, thanks Champ!”

That is the only autograph I have and I am not even sure where it is. The only reason I know I have it is that it keeps on turning up in my crap every time I move.

I guess the thrill about autographs is that you have something that the signer had touched. Or, at least in the last couple of decades, you have something that someone is willing to pay you for so that they can have something that the signer touched. When you think about it for a while, it is more than a little disgusting even if you are not a germaphobe. I once shook the hand of the President of France and I did not wash my hands for a week.

Talk about disgusting.

A good friend of mine is a retired professional bike racer and is one of the more famous U.S. cyclists (he finished third in the Tour de France one year). I went with him once to a local bike swap where he was selling a bunch of his old gear. He spent more time signing autographs than actually handling transactions (I found out rather quickly why he wanted me there), and he never seemed to be bothered much by it (I, on the other hand, would have been irked beyond belief–so resist the urge to ask me for my autograph).

Sure, he is well known, particularly in cycling circles, but he is just a regular guy who has many of the same issues that we all do: dealing with his family, his job, and well, life.

In the end, I always come back to this: Aren’t autographs in general and signed wine bottles in particular creating a cult of personality around an otherwise fairly “normal” person? In my humble opinion as an armchair philosopher, I think this all traces back to Watergate and the realization that our leaders are flawed—that they are not the demigods that society had long assumed they were. So instead, we create “heroes” in other aspects of life: sport, cinema, music, and more recently culinary arts, and yes, wine. Perhaps emulation or idolization is a basic human need.

Otherwise, why do signed wine bottles exist? I understand that singing a wine bottle is an indication that the winemaker handled your bottle personally, and is intended as a nice gesture, a “special” touch.

For me? If you want to do something special, how about giving me 20% off the wine I am buying from you? That will encourage me to drink the wine and come back and buy more….

Three more signed bottles–I guess I won’t be drinking these anytime soon….



About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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23 Responses to Friday Rant: Signed Bottles

  1. As a retailer it is nice when a winemaker visits and signs bottles. For me its a way that customers know their money supports a human or family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fiona says:

    I confess to having a few signed items – not bottles of wiine – 2 CDs by artists whom I saw perform and with whom (in one case at least) I had a really sane conversation and the other an Ed Baines recipe book which he signed on a visit to South Africa and used a product from a company I was involved with for a cooking demo. I figure those are worth something – I still use the cookery book and listen to the music. Empty wine bottles take us space 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. GFwinecountryliving says:

    Love your rants. Also, not a fan of any form of hero worship.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Although I do love your rants and I do get what you are saying, I think as with everything, there are exceptions to the rule. For me, everyone is aware (probably painfully) that Ferrari Carano is THE wine for me. I love them and I do have a signed bottle from George Bursick when I met him and probably made a fool of myself telling him how his wine made me a wine lover. We did drink that bottle and it is in our wine cellar. We do have a couple of other signed bottles (all empty) but they all have an experience with them. The concept of buying a signed bottle when I haven’t met the winemaker or had an interaction with them is beyond me. I’m that way with all signatures. If I met you and you have made an impact on me, the signature is cool, but just someone’s signature without the memory= worthless.


  5. talkavino says:

    take a good picture and drink the wine…


  6. Interesting rant. Probably an empty signed bottle is not nearly as valuable as an unopened signed bottle. If I were you, and if there is no sentiment attached, I’d get rid of that dust collector. Of course, first try to sell it on eBay. 🙂


  7. Running into Ali and having him perform magic tricks is something that sounds like one of those weird dreams where you have to preface the telling about it with things like, “this doesn’t make any sense, I know.” Which actually is a sentiment that fits well with this whole post.


  8. dwdirwin says:

    I’ll make sure Derek signs a few bottles for you when you visit Naggiar- he LOVES all of that hero worship stuff! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I guess I never really thought too much about the whole signing bottles thing. I certainly have never dissected it to this degree. It doesn’t really bother me – it just seems to me like a nice gesture to remind you in a few months or a few years when you drink it that you met that person and hopefully had a pleasant interaction. My one pet peeve about signed bottles is when they sign on the glass with a pen that then smears on your hands when you handle the bottle.


  10. chef mimi says:

    huh. i never knew that anyone signed wine bottles!


  11. lulu says:

    We’ve had a few signed bottles of wine along the way, but I can assure you we drank the wine and disposed of the bottles so I guess we didn’t put very much stock in that autograph.


  12. Pingback: A Taste of Krug Champagne Redux - ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

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