Monday, July 16, 2012

The Dullness of Wine Reviews Cured!



Is there anything more boring to read than wine reviews? OK, besides Jonathan Franzen. If wine itself were as boring as the average wine description, we’d all be drinking Nyquil to get high. Which makes a helluva Grasshopper, by the way. Wine critics assign numbers to give us a quick impression of how much they like or don’t like a wine, and then somehow manage to write a description to accompany it that is actually duller to read than the number. How the hell can you be duller than “89?”  Yet Wine Spectator does it dozens of times each issue. And the descriptions are all interchangeable. If the descriptions got scrambled before the magazine went to press, how would anyone know? They don’t match the wines they belong to in the first place, what does it matter? And nobody, but the winemaker, reads them. Until they appear on a shelf talker at BevMo and then it’s the better alternative to speaking to one of the clowns that works there.

What if actual writers had been writing wine reviews all along? Aha! The damned premise finally appears. And none too soon.


Dorothy Parker on Zonin Prosecco (79 pts)

I was hoping the bubbles
Would subsume my troubles
But, alas, this Prosecco
Is frizzante dreck-o.

You’re better off drinking
A four dollar Chardonnay
Than mass produced urine
From Valdobbiadene.

Men seldom make passes
At introduced gasses.


Edgar Allan Poe on Chateau Montus 2009 Madiran (94 pts)

It’s the darkness of Tannat I’m attracted to, the impenetrable and consuming blackness that reflects the human heart. It speaks of death, and pairs nicely with venison. The Tannat is evil with power, drenched in tongue-torturing tannins. It curls up in your mouth like Cerberus, preventing your palate from escaping its Hell. Will it age? The question is, will you? I’d give the wine six years in the cellar. Your death will come much sooner. You’ll both rest in a cold, damp place for a long time. One of you will be alive when you go in.


Raymond Chandler on Mount Eden 2007 Estate Chardonnay (95 pts)

You know the kind of wine I’m talking about. It’s the third bottle you’ve opened that night, and the first sip of it has you staring at your wife’s neck while you fondle the knife on your waiter’s corkscrew. The night is warm, and through your open windows you can hear the sound of the drunks gathered at the local wine bar. You promise yourself you’ll open your wife’s neck like a Master Sommelier, never setting her down on the tablecloth, if you hear the word “minerality” one more time from those brix dicks. And you’re drinking the kind of wine that makes you want to hear it. It’s a moment too late before you realize the words you just heard were “Min...nesota oak.” Damned wine geeks, now you’ll have to start dating again. Pair with oysters, but be careful with the knife.


Lenny Bruce on 2009 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon (6 pts.)

I mean, who drinks this shit? You spend a year growing the Cabernet up on some fucking mountain in Napa Valley, pay a bunch of Mexicans to pick it, then spend another two years waiting for it to be ready. You know, I’m thinking, why does everything we get high on come from Mexicans? It’s like they’re a whole race of drug fairies. And why wait three years for a bottle of wine? Shit, you can get high on horse in a couple of minutes, and it’s cheaper than this stick-up-your-ass Cabernet. What do you eat with it? Your own vomit. What else?


William Faulkner on Lodi Zinfandel (82 pts)

I see it too now, the blood color, warm like the night, and I can smell it as well, the smell of the old barn burning, the barn where he’s hiding. That matchstick aroma, like the fulvous sulfur of our preacher’s Hell there to blacken us for eternity as it burns our sins into our skin, surrounding me now. I want to walk into the woods to escape, but I don’t know the terroir, it’s invisible to me, and apparently to the winemaker as well. Matchstick or not, I raise the liquid to my lips. I drink, and it transubstantiates, not into our Lord and Saviour, but into Oreo cookies, white surrounded by black. I remember who’s hiding in the barn. 


28 comments:

Mockingbird said...

First!

Andrea said...

" ... to blacken us for eternity as it burns our sins into our skin ..." Damn, your writing is delicious. I'll never read a wine review again without thinking of this blog post.

Marcia Macomber said...

Perfectamente! Each one so exactly captures the writer. What a great way to start the week.

Me? I like Samantha's rare tasting notes. So completely original and yet they perfectly capture the essence of each bottle.

Waiting for part 2 with other writers....

Samantha Dugan said...

Awe, thanks Marcia. Second time in a couple days I've heard something like that, (which melts the crap outta me by the way) had me thinking I should maybe write more tasting notes but now, after reading this brilliant HoseMaster piece, I'm thinking I had better not. Who could compete?!

Thomas said...

Good stuff.

The Faulkner is my favorite.

Why no Hemingway?

No brief sentences?

Dean Tudor said...

Thomas, I dredged this up from my wine humour files. It had been floating around the Internet from 20 years back, passed amongst all the EBBs via FidoNet...hey, remember FidoNet?


Ernest Hemingway -- "It is a wine. A good wine, not a great one. It is red.
Wet. Its power is obvious, obvious and powerful the way men are, men who hunt and
get into bar fights. Real men. Except for the smell. The wine smells better than the men."

Woody Allen -- "It's n-n-n-n-ot like I'm the kind of person who drinks
Chianti, usually,
I mean, I eat pasta and I swell up like a tick on an artery. And
garlic, don't even
get me started. Yet I like this tart little red in a half-hearted
Jungian sort of way.
I think back to those blind tastings with the Rabinsky Twins, Doris
and Phoebe.
I get lightheaded just thinking about it. I still have one of their
black leather
blindfolds."

Raymond Chandler -- "I've swilled better gasoline. That at least was at
gunpoint.
I should stick with Scotch but I have a thing for blondes, blondes
like this
Chardonnay. I thought it was classy, it had legs tall and sleek as
the Chrysler
Building. But it turned out to be trouble, like most blondes, a lot
of flashy oak
and cheap perfume. You'd think I'd learn my lesson."

William Faulkner -- "A wine that calls to mind those languorous Southern
summers
when the days were oppressively warm and furious and impotent and
you
wandered the hills around Jacksonboro with your third cousin
twice-removed
on your mother's side, Finnegan Russell (the elder, not his son
who everyone
called Buck) and his half-witted dog."

Shakespeare -- "O nectar, a poetry profound, a liquid fair and hedonistic,
a drink meant truly not for mortals but the gods
of misty yore.
Burdened not by filtering or fining or such
slings and arrows
beset by fools. Get thee to a bottle."

Dr. Seuss -- "One wine.
Red wine.
This wine.
Bad wine."

Puff Daddy said...

Lovely stuff. The Poe is my favorite, especially "drenched in tongue-torturing tannins. It curls up in your mouth like Cerberus".

I could write the first part, but the second is going to be a challenge. Since I write so many tasting notes, I accept the challenge to craft at least some of them as semi-real literature.

The rest--well, they are tasting notes after all. And, by the way, I have a big fan in Colorado who is some winemaker's mother. He sent her our reviews and she sent me brownies.

amy cleary said...

The Poe is also my favorite. "the impenetrable and consuming blackness that reflects the human heart"

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thomas,

I certainly thought about Hemingway, but, man, is there a writer more parodied that good ol' Shotgun Ernie? And, besides, I have never really liked Hemingway--something my mother and I argued about all the time.

Thanks, Marcia,

It's fun to do this, but coming up with recognizable writers with recognizable styles isn't as easy as it seems. But I'm sure I'll try it again--any writer suggestions, anybody?

Dean,

I don't think I've ever seen that. I knew this wasn't an original idea, just one that has some appeal to my literary passion. Nothing like cheap comedy on a Monday morning.

Charlie,

Man, eating brownies from a winemaker's mother? That's risky business for a wine critic. Ever seen "Arsenic and Old Lace?"

Thomas said...

Ron,

Hemingway bored the hell out of me... but he could do it in fewer words than a blogger could.

Bill Klapp said...

Ron, I'm begging here...in Part 2, give us James Joyce and e e cummings...

Anonymous said...

love the lenny bruce take on bryant family

Thomas said...

Bill,

here's one for you:

idoanunnerstan this wine
itkoodabeengoodorbedder
hadtha winemaker
spent some timeintha tank

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Bill,

Mighty good suggestions, though now Thomas has ruined the Joyce. (I kind of like that as a catch phrase..."Hey, man, you ruined my Joyce." Has almost no meaning but sounds like it does.) I suspect I may have to do another volume. Beats doing Andy Rooney again.

Thomas,

Very good. A combination of Joyce and, by lack of capitals, cummings as well.

Anon,

Thanks, whoever you are, you ruined my Joyce.

Sondra said...

A great laugh and very creative.

Bill Klapp said...

"Has almost no meaning but sounds like it does." Very much like Aaron Sorkin dialogue, eh?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Sondra,

Wow, thanks for commenting and reading. Your book "Wine's Hidden Beauty" is completely enchanting and cool. I'm thrilled you stopped by.

Bill,

Exactly, but now you've ruined my Joyce. So kiss my Sorkin.

Do you know that I get a few hits a week from people Google Searching Bill Klapp? It's true. More than those searching for Ron Washam, but no surprise there. Who the hell wants to find me?

Lousy Grapes said...

Lenny Bruce. Brilliant.

Thomas said...

Now that this blog has been nominated as a finalist for Best Writing, are we going to have to find somewhere else to congregate?

Samantha Dugan said...

Congratulations My Love! A richly deserved nomination, I am so very proud of you.
I love you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thomas,

I know I will.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I have mixed emotions about being nominated. It's flattering that the judges chose me, and I also think it's important that someone doing satire be noticed in an otherwise rather dreary blog world--and with Randall, that makes two of us.

And I don't want to seem ungrateful. I know your feelings about all this, and I share a lot of them. I cannot imagine that I'll win. I don't have the resources--FakeBook and Twitter and the like--to lobby for votes, but I wouldn't anyway. Maybe someone should form a SuperPAC and spend a fortune campaigning for me. Also, I've spent a lot of time alienating other bloggers, who are the ones who will vote for the most part.

I didn't enter myself in the race, so I care less about winning. I'm not the least bit insecure about my talent. I can write. I can be funny. I don't need the validation. Yet it feels good, and I have to step away from my lifelong case of anhedonia long enough to acknowledge that.

The work is enough for me. I love the gang that hangs around here, and if being nominated adds a few more to the peanut gallery, that will be reward enough.

If I win, someone launch an investigation.

Thomas said...

I already investigated. Bloggers think that by embracing you they will get you to shut up.

Some lobbied to pay you out of their Google Adsense checks to get you to shut up, but the smart ones prevailed, using their own talent for vanity to assume that you will prove equally vain and do what they want after they give you the award, which is worth about as much as an Adsense check.

1WineDoody said...

Thomas - probably worth *less*, actually...

Anyway, Congrats to HMW!

amy cleary said...

I admit that as a judge, I'm very curious to see what happens with the "popular" vote. There were multiple judges, so I was pleased that 4/5 of my top 5 in my category made it to the final vote. Even the 5th was on my top 10 list.
But I have no idea if my #1 will win.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

1WineDoody,

Thanks, Joe. Ooooh, but I feel so dirty.

Amy Love,

I haven't read the nominees for Best Blog Post. Not sure I will. You told me your #1 pick--I'll just vote for that. That should be the kiss of death.

OK, back to working on my acceptance speech.

Thomas said...

I did some further investigation and discovered that this blog was selected as a finalist for Best Writing not because of its posts but because of its reader's comments (and no, I did not misplace that apostrophe).

Anonymous said...

David Mamet style, if you have a couple bantering and interrupting each other throughout with disconnected thoughts and phrases. Not so recognizable as Poe, I'll grant you, but a personal favorite.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Anon,

Mamet. Not bad. Plus lots of profanity is always a plus. Thanks for the suggestion. I was leaning more towards Tennessee Williams or maybe Beckett. Not to mention Shlockmeister Andrew Lloyd Webber. But Mamet could work. Stay tuned.