Riedel at ease over Hosemaster


9 pm 14 Aug I have just received the following statement from Riedel. 

'On Saturday 8 August 2015 we issued a statement concerning the amicable resolution between Tim Atkin and Riedel, in connection with the UK publication of an article by Ron Washam. Riedel would like to clarify that, having reached that agreement, it views the matter fully resolved and that no legal action is being considered against any of the parties involved, including Ron Washam.

'Original Statement Follows: Tim Atkin and Riedel, the wine glass company, are very pleased to advise that they have been able to resolve their differences over a piece by Californian based writer Ron Washam, which was posted on timatkin.com this week. Tim explains: In his inimitable style, Ron was poking fun at Riedel the wine glass company, a brand which I respect and use personally. On my website, I failed to explain clearly enough that the article was a piece of satirical writing and, as a result, I caused offence to Georg Riedel, for which I apologise. I would like to make it clear that no interview with Georg Riedel took place in the creation of Ron Washam’s article and that all the quotes it contains are fictitious and do not represent the personal views or business practices of Georg Riedel or his company.

'On reaching the agreement with Tim, Georg Riedel commented: We are pleased that we have been able to resolve this issue amicably. I have know[n] Tim for a long time and there is mutual professional respect between us. I am a true advocate of free speech and that is something I would never try to suppress. I welcome satire, as long as it is clearly stated and can be identified unmistakably by the reader. In its original published form, this was not clear and the piece was personally insulting and linked me with opinions that I strongly condemn. This was an extremely upsetting experience and I am very pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement, to leave this behind us and to move on.'

10 am 14 Aug Ron Washam is a California sommelier-turned-satirist who writes as The Hosemaster of Wine frequently on his blog and monthly on my colleague Tim Atkin’s website. He is often cruel, occasionally funny and sometimes both. I have been targeted by the Hosemaster many a time, especially when he needs a female character. 

Most of us accept his barbs with the sort of humour that is intended. But recently the Hosemaster devoted one of his columns for Tim to lampooning glassmaker Georg Riedel. The Austrian did not see the funny side. Via lawyers’ letters he threatened both Washam and Atkin with legal action, no joke in the UK where libel laws are very much stricter than in the US. The result has been the addition of a rather ponderous introduction to the piece on Tim’s website explaining that Tim is a fan of Riedel’s products, that no actual interview with Riedel took place, and that ‘This is a piece of satiricial writing’ (sic). Because the threat of legal action against Ron Washam had not been withdrawn, the Hosemaster has launched a defence fund, but it now seems that it will not be needed. 

This wasn’t one of Washam’s finest pieces, as he himself admits, but Riedel’s humourless and heavy-handed reaction inspired massive support for the Hosemaster. Specifically, American wine (and tennis) writer Mike Steinberger, backed by colleague Jon Bonné, spent much of yesterday organising an open letter to Georg Riedel. I felt this tactic slightly smacked of the pomposity and threats of which Riedel himself could be accused and suggested instead that we all just tweet ‘Get a life, Georg’ but this was dismissed as too sophomoric. (That’s me. Ever the student.)

I spent quite a bit of the last 24 hours helping them garner a hugely impressive list of signatories from around the world to the still-being-discussed letter. But in the last hour or so, with the Americans still presumably sleeping, I had a response from Michael Fridjhon, South Africa's best-known wine writer. He has fingers in many pies and one of them appears to be a Riedel one for he answered my email with a promise to discuss the matter with Riedel. 'I sent a mail and received an immediate response, followed by a phone call', he subsequently reported. 'There is no intention of pursuing any legal action against Ron Washam. They genuinely didn’t realise that it was meant to be a satire, and with Tim’s clarification they consider the entire matter over. I’ve suggested that they need to issue a formal clarification and Julie [Georg's PA] has said they will do so (having obviously consulted with their lawyers etc) as soon as possible, and possibly via Tim.'

So, there you have it. The positive power of communication.