Monday, December 31, 2012

The HoseMaster's Favorite Moments of 2012


It’s been just about a year since I returned to writing HoseMaster of Wine™ for the seventeenth time (don’t get cute, now, I’ll walk away again, I swear, I mean it, just lay off or I’ll quit again—or worse, I’ll just publish tasting notes—you don’t want that, do you? I didn’t think so). Turns out, I picked a perfect year to restart this foolishness. In the wine business, 2012 was filled with scandal, stupid trends, fraud, and the contagious optimism that goes along with them. It began with Jay Miller and ended with Natalie MacLean. It was the Year of the Boobs.

In the grand tradition of taking the easiest premise possible every chance I get, I thought it would be fun to quickly revisit my favorite moments in wine from 2012. One can only hope that 2013 will be half as much fun.


The HoseMaster’s™ Favorite Scandals of 2012

The Jay Miller Affair—Any scandal that results in an M.W. resigning has to be good. Though, as it turns out, Pancho Campo actually sold his M.W. to Natalie MacLean for $2.10/month. He threw in his integrity for free. She threw it back because she had no idea what it was. And it was really small. Dr. Miller, the Wine Advocate’s Spanish wine reviewer, and Spain’s favorite dictator since Francisco Franco, retired soon after the scandal broke, though he claims he had planned to quit long before that. Which is like being drunk, tripping and falling into a table loaded with drinks and food, then getting up and saying, “I meant to do that.” Campo was essentially forced to resign from being a Master of Wine (one always uses an audio echo effect when saying, “Master of Wine!”) because he used his superpowers for evil, and the other superheroes just didn’t like that, especially Jancisman and Doug Frosty the Snowman. This was just a superb scandal. (See “Parkenstein” in my December 2011 and January 2012 Blog Archives.)

19 Perfect Wines—Perhaps not so much scandal as farce, Robert Parker awarded 19 different wines from the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux a perfect 100 points. In retrospect, it seems a pretty smart move to demonstrate your power and influence when you’re about to sell your publication to the Three Singapore Stooges. Prices of those 19 wines immediately rose, and rose quickly, from their giant dose of Parker Viagra, and, indeed, the value of the Bordeaux vintage increased significantly. After the sale of The Wine Advocate, Millennials rushed to remind us that Parker’s influence was waning anyway. Jenna Talia, as head wine mouth of the Somebody, Please, Listen to Me generation, wrote in Wine Spectator, “Nobody my age cares what Parker thinks. He smells like my grandfather’s laundry hamper, and his last taste bud died in Michel Rolland’s butt.” This “scandal” was lots of fun. (See my “Parkenstein! Explains Perfection” from March 2012.)

Natalie MacLean--She dared use dull and virtually interchangeable wine reviews from wine experts on her blog without attribution. Though this gave the reviews value they otherwise lacked, the experts were outraged. Funny thing about experts, outrage is what they’re really good at, and little else. Taking yourself seriously is an absolute requirement for writing about wine—it’s like every wine description you write is an Oscar acceptance speech except you never thank anybody. But the experts’ outrage opened the floodgate, and poor Nat was deluged with her past indiscretions. Turns out she’s about as beloved as genital herpes. Which probably means she’ll return at an awkward moment, and be even nastier than the last time. Clearly, this was a fabulous, and probably the best, scandal of 2012. Bravo, Nat! (See Below, “Nat Defrauds.”)

The HoseMaster’s™ Favorite Fraud of 2012

Dr. Conti—Rudy Kurniawan, referred to by his friends as Dr. Conti because of his legendary cellar of DRC Burgundy, seems to have made a small fortune faking famous and rare wines and selling them at auction. But for slipping up and labeling a Domaine Ponsot Burgundy with a vintage that was years before the winery existed, he might still be doing it. The auction houses weren’t worried about it—they religiously check provenance like Marlee Matlin checks her voicemail.  When I lived in Southern California, I sold Rudy dozens of bottles of Screaming Eagle; which he drank, and are now featured on some of the finest wine lists in Las Vegas. Ah, but there’s something sweetly appropriate about hedge fund managers and bank executives drinking expensive forgeries. It’s like they had a long night of drunken sex with a hooker and didn’t see her penis until the morning. In his defense, Rudy was just following in the footsteps of legendary California fake wines Inglenook Chablis, Gallo Hearty Burgundy and Korbel Champagne. A fraud for the wine ages! (See “Dr. Conti, Prison M.D.” from March.)

The HoseMaster’s™ Favorite Stupid Trends of 2012

Low Alcohol—I’m not sure when the habit of checking the alcohol content on a wine label began, but I’m thinking it’s the about the same time wineries started printing it as small and as hidden on a wine label as legally possible. Like they’re ashamed of it. The ABV has nothing to do with the quality of a wine, not on its own anyway. Only stupid people think so. The alcohol, my friends, is WHY we drink wine. It’s the only damn reason we drink wine. More isn’t better, less isn’t better, not by definition. We just don’t want to taste it when we drink it. Drugs don’t taste good. It’s why you stick your dog’s medicine in meat. And he doesn’t check to see if it’s too much, he just eats it. Let’s just drop the alcohol debate. Checking the alcohol on a wine bottle is like a junky checking to see if his needle is clean. Why? He’s going to use it anyway.

Orange Wine—There was a lot of talk about orange wines in 2012, but I don’t know a single person who likes them. Orange wines are the Kardashians of wine. Please, just quietly die.

Natural/Authentic/Real Wine—What do all of these stupid trends have in common? Simple. They’re each about the denial of pleasure, about dictating tastes, about superiority. There’s always been a lot of that in the American wine culture, such as it is. It’s the leftover Puritan in us. The alcohol is too high—that has to be bad, you can’t drink that! It doesn’t smell good? Too bad, just drink it, someone went to a lot of trouble to make that! Don’t waste it! Your wine isn’t authentic? It isn’t natural? How can you enjoy a wine like that? Atheist! In the case of “natural” wine, it’s a return to mystical beliefs combined with the guilt of having ruined the planet for future generations. We can make up for it by drinking “authentic” wines, which have “soul.” Who’s buying this pretentious, mystical crap? The “Real” wine movement is the exact equivalent of the old Medicine Show, and the hucksters selling it just the usual snake oil salesmen. Hell, it’s entertaining, I’ll give ‘em that, but it’s utterly worthless.

Yup, it was a fine year, ol’ 2012. Can’t say I’m sorry to see it go, but it was fun while it lasted.


42 comments:

Joseph Miglino said...

Thank you for coming back. The wine world needs the truth and you tell it like it is.

Keep it up and HNY...

Joey Vino

Thomas said...

How clever: a ten-best list of the year cloaked in information and only seven out of ten.

I'll restart vinofictions and take care of the remaining three.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Joey Vino,
Thanks! Truth is pretty subjective, especially in our business, but I try to tell a skewed and funny version of it. When I get tired of it, which is weekly, it's kind remarks from strangers that keep me going. Happy New Year to you as well!

Thomas,
Come on, I dare you to start vinofictions again. Wait, did you quit?

Happy 2013, my friend!

Charlie Olken said...

You are my Santa. Keep the gifts coming and I may memorialize you again next Christmas just as I did this year in my Gifts That Keep On Giving column.

Thanks for reminding us that wine is just wine--most of the time.

Sergio Vito Parente said...

HMW - you made this 2012 even greater.
Happy 2013!

Thomas said...

Ron,

Obviously, you don't read the NY Times.

Oh, and speaking of the Times, as in Times Square, where we drop our balls: Happy New Year to you, too. Or as my friend's Italian grandfather used to say in his severely broken English: aup'nuazza.

david fish said...

Happy New Year HMW & HMW Followers
thanks for the year of laughter.
-david

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Charlie,
I meant to thank you for your kind poetic tribute over at CGCW. You've quite the gift for doggerel. You're a regular Steve Nash (Ogden's slow brother). Thanks, as always, for your encouragement and kind words. Last I checked, wine is just wine, unless, of course, it's Gruner.

Happy New Year, Puff Daddy!

Sergio,
Thank you. Happy New Year!

Thomas,
I only read the NY Times for the comics. aup'nuazza to you too!

David,
Cheers! Thank you for participating here at HMW, and Happy New Year to you. My post about your wines comes up very soon...

Anonymous said...

i started reading you recently because I thought you were into horses (i am sydlexic). Now I finally get it, but you never talk about your favorite fires..

Very confusing, sir

- Andre Semen

Dean Tudor said...

Ron, god dammit..

Did you have give Natalie yet another award?????

"Best Wine Scandal of 2012" Award...Now it will appear next to her other logos, etc. of Beards and Gourmands.

Don't give her any excuse to rack up another accolade. For shame...

Happy New Year, Ron...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Dean,
I'm just worried Nat won't give me proper attribution. Fair use and all that.

Happy Canadian New Year to you, Dean! Don't Canadians celebrate it on January 2nd?

BD said...

Is Mr. Semen the winemaker for Splooge Estate?

Dean Tudor said...

Yeah, Ron, thanks...Jan 2, eh... I think so. Canadians are always a day late and a dollar short...

Jack Stems said...

What? No top 10 best and top 10 worst comments lists?

Thomas said...

That's ok, Dean. Canadian dollars are not the same as U.S. dollars, what with Royalty pictures and all that global currency stuff, and keep those damned coins to yourselves. They keep coming back at me in the vending machines.

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh My Gawd, you just went all STEVE! on me. Puritan because we like restraint? Funny, never heard that comment when I tie someone up....

gabe said...

Sorry Sam, but I have to agree with Ron on this one. I love wines that are restrained, delicate, and balanced...which is why I hate the low-alcohol fad. It's like diet coke or low calorie oreos. Numbers can be easily manipulated, and I feel like the low alcohol fad is a way for high brix, high pH wines to pretend they are "balanced" because they have low alcohol.

Marcia Macomber said...

Hallelujah to the 17th return of the HoseMaster! Should I get a cake for you?

There should always be plenty of fodder for your blog, sir, as we humans are so talented at making a mess of things. (It's extra easy in this business.)

Have fun in Cloverdale! Can't imagine slogging through thousands of samples. Guess it helps they're wine since you'll be stuck in Cloverdale. :P

Samantha Dugan said...

Gabe,
I'm no low alcohol Nazi, not in the least but I do get my crunders in a twist when the opulent, high-extraction set say that because I don't get my rocks off on sweet hedonistic fruit and richness that somehow I am enjoying wine less or I'm being a puritan. Simply false, like way false and when you think about it and break down the judgement and accusation, kind of smug. I'm not about to say I have finer or more open taste, so it bugs me when they do it, and worse, try and belittle my preferences. Just sayin'. Dig what you dig and I will too.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
First off, I never said I prefer restraint, though we can talk about the sex stuff later. I said that all of the annoying trends had one thing in common; namely, that each of them in some way tries to rob folks of the sheer pleasure of wine by telling them what's wrong with the things they like. That's a form of Puritanism, and it's very American. And it's tiresome.

I know you were just going for the gag, which is nice when one is restrained, but Gabe took you seriously. He should know better. Though we all know he doesn't.

Gabe,
Thanks for defending me, though against Samantha we are completely helpless.

I like to drink wine. I don't spend a lot of time analyzing numbers or trying to ruin the fun of it by showing off how much I know. There are a lot of zealots when it comes to wine, and they're all rather despicable. I feel sorry for them mostly, but I also love to insult them. Samantha has never been that person. She has an open mind, and, truthfully, one of the best palates I've come across professionally.

I do agree that restraint, a word equally as vague as balance, is a key to great wine. But great wine is a rare bird. I always think that if I have one great wine a month, I'm in luck. Low alcohol zealots are fools. Wine isn't about one component. The sum is always greater than the parts when it comes to great wines. To assign alcohol as a deciding factor is simpleminded. It's just one factor of dozens.

Marcia,
Cloverdale in January? Why it's like I've died and gone to Heaven.

Oh, I never worry about running out of material. The great human comedy is nothing if not infinite.

Jack Stems,
No top 10's here, my friend. But when a comment makes me laugh, I always mention it. Not sure there were ten of those this year, but I love my HoseMaster peanut gallery and wish all of you a very Happy and Healthy 2013!

gabe said...

I'm a winemaker, it's my job to argue about numbers and take unimportant things seriously

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
Yeah, I know. It's a shame Harvest doesn't last all year. Winemakers with too much time on their hands are tools of Satan. OK, just tools.

Happy New Year, Gabe!

LOOK OUT!!!!

Oh, shit, I thought that was Paul Gregutt. Never mind. Sorry, false alarm.

gabe said...

my only saving grace is that i was a tool long before i was a winemaker. btw, i was upset my feud with paul didn't make your list of favorite moments that nobody noticed or cared about.

happy new year ron

Joeshico said...

The best "Best Of 2012" I've read so far. Looking forward to your 2013.

David Rossi said...

Disappointed that Chocolate Wine didn't make the list. Maybe if we could make a low alcohol, all natural, orange, biodynamic, unfiltered, version that truely expresses terroir we would have something. No that wouldn't work because it ignores biochar.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
What feud? Guess I didn't notice.

Joeshico,
Thanks. Maybe I should do my Favorite Moments of 2013 in my next post. Get it out of the way. Happy New Year!

David Rossi,
I like Biochar in my morning coffee. Which is why I don't drink coffee.

Happy New Year!

Marlene Rosman said...

Hose,maybe we won't have to hear Alice whining about the great shit filled horns buried a la Steiner's bioD wines this year. That would make it a better year for me.

And,BTW if I were not married to another guy who makes me laugh, I would propose to you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marlene,
Oh, that's sweet, and I adore you too. But I'm already promised to Lettie Teague...and, of course, I am constantly being wooed by Jenna Talia.

Happy New Year, Love!

Mickey Knox said...

Can someone point out the funny parts in this article?
I can't seem to find em.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Everyone,

I've been getting so much Spam I'm changing the comment section slightly to see if that helps. Sorry if it's inconvenient for anyone.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Mickey,
Then go away.

Mickey Knox said...

Now THAT'S funny!

PaulG said...

It ain't me Gabe... No no no it ain't me Gabe... It ain't me you're looking for. Happy belated new year to all who post here. Lets hope Ron persists and Nat recants.

Bill Klapp said...

This discovered on the Squires board:

"Robert Parker
Wine Critic
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: po box 311 monkton,md.21111
Posts: 3,318
Jesus,Mary and Joseph would have approved
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...."

Reason for celebration or suicide? You be the judge...

Martin said...

Brilliantly witty stuff. Please keep doing it.

The orange wine thing is so true. Went to a 'natural' wine fair in London and tasted a serious or increasing oxidised tannic orange wines from an Italian producer who increasingly boasted about the amount of time on skins. All I could say was, 'Sorry, but do you actually like this? You mean it's deliberate? FFS why?'

BY the way, I've always referred to Jancisman as HRH Jancis, but not to her face!

Martin Moran MW

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Paul,
Nice.
I'm sure I'll persist for a bit yet, though being the Fool does take its toll. Seems a lot easier from the other side, now, doesn't it, Recovering Wine Blogger?

Bill,
Hey, you and Parker finally agree about something! I'm so glad to have brought you two together.

I confess to being shocked at Parker's generosity. It won't change my life, but after spending hours and hours at the keyboard trying to make people laugh at our far too uptight, pretentious, and sententious business, and doing it for free, for the simple joy of exercising, and exorcising, my comedy demon, it's nice to get an Attaboy from the business' most famous member. Yeah, I said member. Stop giggling.

But you know I'm still getting over not winning a Poodle...

Martin,
Thanks. And thank you for commenting. I hope you make it a regular thing.

I was recently referred to as an "asshole" by Alice Feiring on Twitter, but I took it as a compliment because all the wines she loves smell just like one.

Bill Klapp said...

Ron,

1. Don't flatter yourself. You did not bring me together with Parker. I am alive and living in Italy. He is dead and living in Hell, or if not Hell, Monkton, MD, which is pretty much the same thing. You have yourself catalogued his musings from beyond the grave. Also, just because he commented favorably on your piece doesn't mean that he actually read it. His attention span is rarely long enough to allow him to finish a complete, properly punctuated sentence. And he could have been drunk at the time. This is probably more reflective of what he thinks of blobbers like yourself:

"...there is really nothing sacred to prevent a perfect score-it simply means you,me,someone thinks the wine is as brilliant an example of a vintage, a varietal or blend, or terroir that exists-obviously experience is a factor-with 33 vintages of tasting experience-over 300,000 wines tasted, it would be impossible to believe I couldn't find wines that I deemed perfect.
It is amazing how few wine writers desire to recognize the enormous progress and significant advances made in quality across all price ranges of wine and all countries producing wines...of course I would be the first to say that the public loves bad news more than good news, brilliant artisanal wine producers are of less interest than some manufactured scandal, and ad nauseum reports about how all this crud we drink is unnatural...(WARNING:INCOMING RANT)but such is the dim-witted group think culture we live in where complete falsehoods are passed off as conventional wisdom(wines are too alcoholic,all wines taste the same, terroir is dead), and then this garbage is bounced around every social media site these knuckleheads can find,and voila, it becomes dogma in a self-reassuring circle of zombies who would make Ayn Rand's discussion of "second-handers" look prophetic, and prove that propaganda-even if false and totally unsupported by facts, is still alive and flourishing in some circles.
Hey.....wine is more diverse and greater than ever....get over it...."

(Ayn Rand is turning over in her grave, no mean feat since Alan Greenspan is in there with her. The only thing that she hates more than being quoted by an idiot like Sean Hannity is being quoted by an idiot like Bob Parker.)

2. Didn't you mean to say "the business' most FLACCID member" above? Or perhaps "the business' most FLATULENT member"? (And blaming it on the bulldog, too...the oldest trick in the book!)

Martin said...

Love your comment about liking being called an arsehole by Alice as the wines she likes smell like that. touché or maybe that's 'two chai'.
Martin Moran MW

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Martin,
I stole that line from Brian Loring. But, hey, my jokes get stolen endlessly, I figured I could steal one as well. It was his response when I mentioned to him that Alice had called me an "asshole." So kudos to Brian.

Bill,
I can't remember the last time I flattered myself.

I'm never worried about what Parker, or you, or anyone else thinks about me. Positive or negative. Hard to do this nonsense otherwise. Parker's praise of me, however drunk he was, and I like to think that almost everyone who reads HoseMaster is shitfaced, was flattering, but then I moved on. Just as I do when someone famous calls me moronic, or asshole, or various other things. It's all the same to me. The HoseMaster is just a character I write, he's not me.

But thanks for the Parker quote. I miss all the good stuff since I don't subscribe.

Happy New Year, Bill!

Bill Klapp said...

Back at ya, Ron, but I will be missing the good stuff, too, as I am letting my subscription lapse on the 10th...

Cris Whetstone said...

I must complain. I come here for laughs and in your last 3 three items I read nothing but reality and facts. You are late on the alcohol police though. I've been having that argument since soon after I got into wine a little less than a decade ago. Some people have the amazing ability to read a number placed on a label as dictated for tax purposes and in the absence of many other numbers that might help define that wine more precisely, and describe that wine perfectly without even tasting it. Even more amazingly have it match that prediction precisely after having tasted it!

Still hunting for my first unnatural wine.

Cheers!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Cris,
It used to be, quite a while ago, that consumers fixated on the "Contains Sulfites" warning. That's nearly over, but now it's the alcohol level they focus on. This, too, shall pass. Like kidney stones. Question is, what's next? Quality? Nah. Now I'm dreamin'.