Even if you haven’t seen the recent discourse, you probably know Josh. Josh can reliably be found at your supermarket, your local Costco, your corner bottle shop. Josh also tends to frequent such establishments as Dave & Buster’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and amateur ax-throwing ranges.
Josh is a wine—or, more accurately, a range of wines from Josh Cellars in Napa Valley. Josh’s claim to fame is not its quality, or uniqueness—instead, its ubiquity is the point. Recently, X user @zujabes put it in car terms: Drinking Josh is like driving a Hyundai, which is fine, but not worth feeling superior about. The post immediately took off.
For non wine drinkers, this is like someone driving a Hyundai making fun of a Kia driver https://t.co/OZ0WazDv9p
— husky supreme (@Zujabes) January 7, 2024
Soon, there were jokes about Josh being called Josh, inserting Josh into song lyrics (“before I leave brush my teeth with a bottle of Josh”; “too many bottles of this Josh we can’t pronounce”) and poking fun at those who are die-hard fans by pretending to be one (suggestions to tattoo one’s own knuckles with letters spelling out JOSH WINE, or build an elaborate tunnel system to get to Josh at a party). The sudden popularity of the wine also unearthed Dave and Justin and Joe, but none of these had the same stickiness as Josh.
The entire conversation harked back to an older internet (one user called it “the most 2017 meme we’ve had in a while”), the lowest hanging fruit of an idea to riff on. But for wine people, this was new: Josh became the rare topic to penetrate the bubble of Wine Twitter and find a wider audience. “The internet has managed to do what me and every other wine expert in the past 20 to 25 years haven’t, which is to make people think about the price of wine and what cheap wine is really like in a nutshell,” says wine writer, author and Punch contributor Jon Bonné. For the first time, many Josh drinkers were realizing just how mass their favorite wine is. More crucially, though, it was perhaps the first time they realized it may also be mid. “Is it Chugey???” one blissfully offline mom asked.
In 2023, Josh was the top-selling “premium table wine” in the U.S. In response to the original tweet, a few fans came to Josh’s defense, describing it as a good “starter wine.” Like its peers—Barefoot, Yellow Tail, Franzia, Ménage à Trois—the brand exists as a counter to the prevailing idea that wine, with all its terminology and bravado, is confusing and elitist. They are not wrong; a colonialist legacy and years of gatekeeping will do that to any industry. In a supermarket aisle, Josh, which doesn’t feature an appendage or allude to threesomes, feels like a comparatively good, serious place to start. But Bonné offers another analogy: “It’s the Zara of wine, compared to H&M.” They’re all fast fashion, just in different fonts.
If you ask a Wine Person for a “starter wine,” they’ll probably say this: Go to your local bottle shop, talk to the people there and tell them what you like. We, however, are a generation that texts instead of ringing doorbells, and booze can be ordered from an app. It’s no wonder that Josh was Drizly’s third most popular wine overall. You don’t need to have a conversation to enjoy it. All you need to know is whether you identify with its big, swooping J and the modest flourishes in its typeface more than the kangaroo on a bottle of Yellow Tail. (Case in point: As a birthday present in college, someone gave me Cupcake, a wine they described not as a prosecco or whatever it was, but Cupcake, selected because birthday.)
Of course, there are consequences to coping with questions of class and social anxiety with the ease of a one-click wine. Bonné has spent a lot of time thinking about the ways in which wines have lagged behind, say, food, in conversations around sustainability and ethics. In his book The New California Wine, he described it as “the Whole Foods Problem”: The same shoppers picking up organic meats and produce may find themselves grabbing a bottle of Josh without wondering how it was grown. This viral moment isn’t about solving any of wine’s problems, but it does offer a peek into all the considerations we make—or don’t—when selecting a bottle off the shelf. As Bonné puts it: “In a way, I think Josh is a Rorschach blot. People see it how they want to see it.”