Time for another mythbusting edition of HoseMaster of Wine! In this occasional series (see "You're Mything the Point" from the June 15th edition) I debunk myths about wine and the wine business for your edification. No need to thank me. Just doing my job.
Myth #1New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is made from grapes.
This is a common assumption with no basis in fact. Most of the world insists that "wine" be produced 100% from grapes, except in Austria where you're allowed to use petroleum byproducts. But New Zealand's climate is lousy for wine grapes, so their Sauvignon Blancs are actually fermented Tasmanian devil urine (which is also used for most Australian Chardonnay). Oh sure, there are vineyards in New Zealand, but they're just a front, sort of like how MacDonald's pretends their hamburgers are made from actual meat. The grapes never ripen in those vineyards, they're just for show. And, as it turns out, there are only two producers of "Sauvignon Blanc" in New Zealand and they produce all of the Taz Blanc for the couple hundred labels you see in wine shops. This is easy to confirm. Conduct a blind tasting of fifteen "different" New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and try to tell them apart! You can't. Because they're all from the same marsupials!! New Zealand "Pinot Noir" is a different story--it's made from sheep dung.
Myth #2 Wine Tasting is Subjective.
I love this one. This is what wine experts say to people who don't know shit about wine in order to avoid making them feel like their opinions are stupid. But nothing could be further from the truth. Most people's opinions about wine are, in fact, stupid, and only made worse by the fact that they think they are entitled to their opinions. There aren't three correct answers to a question on your driving test, there aren't six answers to a geometry problem, and, really, there aren't any real disagreements about wines. We wine experts just say wine preference is personal taste all the time because it's way too much work to teach you ignoramuses about the fundamentals of wine. We know what wines are actually perfect, fantastic, amazing, and when some imbecile says something like "It's too bitey" we just say, "Well, everyone's different. Just drink what you like." Which is essentially our way of telling you, "You're stupider than a Tim Fish 'Wine Spectator' feature." Don't believe it for a minute. Every wine has an objective and iron-clad rating. You're just not privy to it.
Myth #3Robert Parker is still alive.
Just as Scientologists, who just lost their great champion in Eunice Kennedy Shriver, still profess that L. Ron Hubbard is alive, Parkerbots claim that Robert Parker is still alive. It's not true. RP died in 2004 when a 100 pound scale fell on him. But his death was covered up, mainly by the French and Australians who knew their sales and prices would plummet without his inflated ratings to sell them. A Parker impersonator was hired, a man equally skilled in butchering the language, who attends charity tastings where he is provided with a script ghostwritten for him by Rod McKuen. Many in the business who are aware of Parker's demise worry what will become of the wine industry when consumers become aware that the great man is dead. Where will they turn for advice? How will wine shops sell wine without the "RP" POS signs? Will they have to resort to actually knowing the wines they sell? And how far will the price of Bordeaux fall without the Wine Pope's blessings? Will they become as unsellable as high-end Australian Shiraz, which even with Parker's wholehearted endorsement people recognize as Bardahl? Who will decide the next California cult wine? Steve Heimoff? James Laube? Alder Yarrow? A different undiscovered industry suckup? It's going to be scary. The late Mr. Parker getting a snootful of a TCA.
Myth #4 Corked wines are faulty.
There are a couple of myths rolled up in this one. First of all, the idea that a "corked" wine is caused by contamination from the cork. This is a lie cooked up by the folks who make and advocate screwtops, and has no basis in fact. The off-aroma that is defined as "corked" is caused by a chemical compound known as TCA, which is short for Tightly Clenched Anus. It's a result of the bottle of wine having been stored too close to a septic tank. Aside from that, there are actually many wine connoisseurs who prefer corked wines and actively seek them out. They love the specific quality of a corked wine, that alluring aroma of wet blogger, and feel that the corked bottle is superior to the noncorked bottle. Most of the time it is hard to disagree with them.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"...that guy Hosemaster has real talent...if you ask me sign him up for Comedy Central...he's the funniest guy since Adam Carolla's hilarious book...IN 50 YEARS WE WILL ALL BE CHICKS..."
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."