“…any food product that feels compelled to tell you it’s natural in all likelihood is not.”—-Michael Pollan
Sunday, November 22, 2009
There are so many misconceptions about wine and the wine business, most of them fostered by the wine industry and designed to confuse consumers and wine novices. Someone needs to step up and reveal these myths, these falsehoods, these flatout Cheneys and Rumsfelds, these transparent Limbaughs. Or we'll all end up like Pinocchio with a giant nose boner. I guess the ol' HoseMaster has to do it.
Myth #1 Advertising affects wine ratings
Americans are a skeptical folk. We think wrestling is fixed. We think Florida elections are fixed. We think Madonna is fixed. No matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented, we simply believe the cynical thing to believe. Most people in the wine business are of the opinion that if you purchase a lot of full and half-page ads in publications like Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits that that will buy you some points. Come on, people! This is lunacy. The reason these wineries can afford to buy advertising in these publications is because they make such amazing wines they are rolling in dough and they simply want to give back. They don't care about ratings! Ratings are stupid and don't sell wine anyway, why would they waste money in an attempt to get slightly higher scores? OK, Beringer is always in the top 20 wines every year in Wine Spectator, is that because they buy a lot of advertising? Don't be stupid! It's because, from a strictly objective point of view, they produce many of the greatest wines on the planet, and lots of it! And what better way to thank the wine world than to support its greatest magazine? That the advertising department of a wine publication reminds you that your wine is about to be reviewed right before they ask if you'd like to purchase some more ad space doesn't mean the two things are related. Look at it this way. If your lover is wondering what you're going to buy her for Christmas as she is undressing, you know the two things aren't related. Right?
Myth #2 Wine critics can actually smell everything they describe in any given wine.
There's a pretty simple mathematical way to understand how this works. Take the number of adjectives the critic uses--raspberries, green Gummy bears, pain grille, pommes frites, old Summer's Eve--subtract it from the numerical score, divide it by the alcohol content of the wine, subtract the case production, and if the result is less than zero he's making the shit up. Serious studies have shown that the human nose, and, for rhetorical sake, we'll assume the critic is human, can sense no more than four distinct aromas at a time. And, of course, one dog fart changes that equation to one--you know who you are, Mr. Bigshot. So a long list of descriptive adjectives is as much a fantasy as Gary Vaynerchuk getting an M.W.-- unless they award them in Bizarro world. So why do critics pretend to smell fourteen different things in a wine? Think of it in a "Where's Waldo?" way. Think of it as oneupmanship. Think of it as self-deception. Think of it as hubris. Think of it all you want, just don't believe it.
Myth #3 The best wines are unfiltered.
No, the best cigarettes are unfiltered. Wineries love to say that their wines are unfiltered, but, under oath, they might say otherwise. Unfiltered is used in the wine business the way "organic" is used by Safeway. Let's be generous and chalk it up to poetic license. Most of the wines are actually unfiltered-adjacent. Parker, and perhaps a few other lesser critics, lesser in girth anyway, popularized the notion that filtering a wine strips it of some flavor. This makes intuitive sense, but is sort of like saying straining your fish reduction after it's finished robs it of character. Yeah, OK, but it also takes all that floaty barf out of it. And twenty years down the road an unfiltered wine runs a genuine risk of developing all sorts of off-aromas--like barnyard and slaughterhouse and porn set aromas--so the trade-off, even if the unproven premise is true, ain't so bad. But as soon as Parker declared that filtering was evil, every pathetic winery started claiming their wines were unfiltered. It doesn't really matter. Is a great wine better because it's unfiltered? Is a stupid wine less stupid because it's unfiltered? Do wineries unfailingly tell you and Parker the truth. Yes, yes and yes. Suckers.
Myth #4 Marvin Shanken is a real person.
Most of you have seen the familiar picture of "Marvin Shanken," either holding a glass of wine in his stubby, sausage-shaped fingers or smoking some expensive turd. But it's common knowledge in the wine business that "Marvin Shanken" is an imaginary person, a corporate icon that does not really exist. Like Aunt Jemima or Betty Crocker or Mr. Clean or George Steinbrenner. Wine Spectator has under contract four Marvin Shanken "ambassadors." These four guys, who are remarkably similar in build, appearance and smarminess, appear all over the world at wine events and pretend to be the publisher of Wine Spectator. Think of them as Budweiser Clydesdales--hard to tell them apart with a cursory glance--only not as well-groomed.
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
"...With sometimes crude analogies and occasional droppings of f-bombs, Washam cleverly uses satire to expose the underbelly of the wine business. It's often hilarious stuff as long as you're not the one being lampooned. Washam takes no prisoners in skewering all that is silly, stupid, frustrating and pretentious about wine, and his favorite targets are other bloggers and writers. No one is immune."
--Linda Murphy in "Vineyard and Winery Management"
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity." --JancisRobinson.com
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"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
"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."
--Reign of Terroir
Robert (Joseph) was/is funny unlike HoseMaster who wasn't/isn't.