Monday, December 17, 2012
Eulogy for the Wine Writer
“The creature which we used to call a ‘wine writer’ has died.”—Andrew Jeffords
I’d first like to say how honored I am to have been asked to deliver the eulogy for Wine Writer. I think I speak for all of us here when I say that it’s been a very difficult stretch since we learned of his untimely demise. Yes, Wine Writer had been horribly sick before he passed, a pathetic shadow of what he once had been, reduced to a kind of Laubotomized babbling, a sad and tired victim of Parkerson’s Disease, covered in nasty Suckling wounds, his Hugh Johnson Feiring nothing but blanks. In the end, it’s true, he had ceased to have anything meaningful to say. The last time I saw Wine Writer I asked him how he was feeling. “Full-bodied and unctuous,” he replied, possibly referring to what he’d left in his bedpan. Yes, he was very near death for a very long time, and I’m happy that Wine Writer is finally out of his misery. You’ll pardon me for being religious, but I like to think of Wine Writer having successfully crossed over to that glossy and pastoral place where all wine writing goes to die, Wine Spectator. There is no greater death for Wine Writer. Unless there’s blogging in the afterlife.
It might be comforting to think that Wine Writer died of natural causes. Comforting, but wholly uninformed. It would be more accurate to say that Wine Writer was tortured, abused, and then neglected like the Syrah aisle at your local wine shop. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Who of us will ever forget Wine Writer in his prime? Remember those days? Most of you younger people don’t remember a time when wine writing was about two, and only two, things—Wine and Writing. I know, that’s hard to believe. Wine Writer was somebody in those days. He taught us about wine. He had insight and he was articulate, he was free of marketing jargon and the only numbers he knew were for his local bars. The only 100 Point Scales he knew were from his psoriasis. Don’t be surprised, friends, Wine Writer and flaky go hand-in-hand. In those days he couldn’t be bought. Leased, with an option to buy, absolutely; hey, it’s the wine business! But why buy that used ’57 Balzer when you can go out and get yourself a new 2012 Jay Miller, with plenty of plush upholstery and built-in airbag? Those were different times. The writing was as important as the subject. Remember those days? That’s what we’re here to mourn. There will always be wine, and there will always be writing. But now they’re seen together about as often as sommeliers and humility. It seems M.S. is always a disease.
Maybe it’s the changing times that helped kill Wine Writer. He became an Everyman, an Everywoman, an Everymoronwithacomputer. Maybe he died trying to be everywhere, his talent diffused and useless like an Alka-Seltzer dissolved in 10,000 gallons of water—sort of like Pinot Grigio. Maybe it was that Wine Writer was ultimately confused with Wine Typer. Typing is not writing any more than epileptic fits are dancing. Though there are a lot of Typers that should be allowed to swallow their tongues.
In his day, you could find Wine Writer in every major newspaper, as common as horoscopes, but far less accurate, of course. Any significant food publication had to have Wine Writer onboard to give them legitimacy. Now they have panels. Who wants panels? Panels are for protecting cotton underpants. I don’t want them telling me what wine to buy. It’d probably be orange. Now the glory days of Wine Writer in newspapers are gone. You have only to pick up The Wall Street Journal to see his bloated body swimming in Rupert’s cesspool. It’s best that we bury him today.
Or maybe we killed Wine Writer. Yes, I said “we.” All of us, like in “Murder on the Orient Express.” (Oh, sorry, I meant to say, “Spoiler Alert,” which, by the way, they should install on bottles of Two Buck Chuck.) Maybe our device-driven attention spans killed Wine Writer, like so many pedestrians splattered on windshields like moths on a hot day in Modesto by Millennials talking on their iPhones instead of watching the road. Our slavery to email and Twitter and Pinterest (who knew an entire world could be built around Harold Pinter?) has diminished our attention spans to the size of bubbles in a bottle of Krug Le Mesnil. Maybe we killed Wine Writer with neglect. We only have time now for scores and vintage charts, not thoughtful and joyful wine writing. We’re always in a hurry. Right now, as I speak, most of you are wondering if you’ve received a text message in the last thirty seconds. You wait for the buzz or the chirp or the vibration like one of Pavlov’s dogs, the one who can’t keep his balls out of his mouth. You killed Wine Writer. As much as anyone else, it was us. Though, to be certain, we were just ending his suffering.
Perhaps most of you aren’t aware that for the past ten or fifteen years the Wine Writer you knew wasn’t the real Wine Writer. He was an impostor. The real Wine Writer wouldn’t have published Hedonist’s Gazettes or Buying Guides or Picks of the Week or Top 100’s--wine writing that is lazy and self-absorbed, easily digested like your own spit, redundant and trivial like watching “Entertainment Tonight.” Wine Writer was being insufferably abused while his impersonators cashed in on the simpleminded and sad who were reading their unoriginal and empty words, and florid and vapid descriptions. Wine Writer may have died just a few weeks ago, but he’d vanished like Ambrose Bierce many, many years ago.
Which reminds me of Bierce’s definition of “Critic,” from “The Devil’s Dictionary.” It applies to those Wine Writer impersonators.
CRITIC, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.
I like to imagine that one day Wine Writer will return. Perhaps he is already among us, waiting for all the noise that is the great democracy of the Internet to die down so that he can be heard. Waiting for all the iPhones to be turned off so he can have our attention for more than a few seconds. Waiting for people to value insight and original thought instead of recycled and inarticulate words. Waiting. Waiting. Death has all the time in the world.
Meanwhile, I miss him.