“Satire dramatizes better than any other use of it, the inherent contradiction of free speech that it functions best when what is being said is at its most outrageous”--Tony Hendra
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The Wine Writer Classification of 2013
It’s bound to stir up some controversy, and the results will be fiercely contested, but I’m rather pleased with the new Wine Writer Classification of 2013. Now wine consumers have a guide to the voices in the wine writing world that have meaning, and those that are basically bus stop ads. It has taken several years for the classification to become final, and a lot of bickering and insider politicking went on behind the scenes, but I think the committee, overall, did a wonderful job. From the First Growths down to the Fifths, wine writers have been assigned their level, and the wine buying public is better off for knowing it. It’s a nice bit of irony that the men and women who have made their living assigning imaginary values to wine now find themselves in a similar situation. A wine might be forever branded an “89,” but now, at least, the critic finds himself forever a Fifth Growth Writer. Admit it, it just feels right.
You may notice a few wine writers who were omitted. Perhaps because they lack any significant influence. Or perhaps because they’re just unpleasant people, pushy and demanding to a degree directly inverse to their actual clout. The committee was overwhelmed with pleas from wineries and winemakers to add a sixth level, Cancerous Growth, but this became unworkable when every single wine writer’s name was nominated.
The committee, whose work was done in anonymity for their own safety after repeated threats from Natalie MacLean to “cut their balls off and feed them to Guy Fieri in a nice tomato sauce with a whisper of oregano” if she wasn’t at least a Second Growth Wine Writer, spent long hours assessing the scope and influence of the greatest living wine writers. When they finished with those two, they slapped together the rest. In the time it took for the final classification to be decided, a few of the writers had died. Death does increase popularity, of course, and the committee urged wine writers unhappy with their ranking to strongly consider it.
You may disagree with the Wine Writer Classification of 2013, but it is done. The classification will be revisited in ten years, at which time the committee hopes the writers will have finally found gainful employment in a field at which they actually excel. At that time they will also establish a Veterans Committee to acknowledge wine writers they may have overlooked, or, like Oz Clarke, they were unable to translate into English.
Wine writing is important to the popularity of wine. The committee expressed its sincere wish that it might, one day, also be important to its enjoyment. Wine writing has its roots in man’s love for wine, and his inability to shut up about it. The Wine Writer Classification of 2013 celebrates those who educate and enlighten us at the expense of entertaining us.
Each category, or Growth, represents a different level of influence, talent and longevity. A First Growth wine writer is one whose every word can move wine markets, cause buying frenzies, or ruin family businesses forever. Think Bernie Madoff, just hasn’t been caught yet.
A Second Growth wine writer will have valuable name recognition and a discerning palate, like Monica Lewinsky. Not as influential as a First Growth, this causes a distinctive bitterness to the tone of their work.
A Third Growth wine writer is particularly knowledgeable but has the communication skills of Koko the talking gorilla. They often simply point at kitties.
A Fourth Growth wine writer hasn’t had an original idea since he pulled the chair out from under Harry Waugh at a Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin meeting and said, “Ever mistake the floor for a chair, Harry?” Irrepressible Harry dutifully replied, “Not since lunch, asshole.”
A Fifth Growth wine writer is utterly convinced he is a First Growth because his blog gets over four hundred hits a week, and two wineries sent him free wine that had been refused by their wine club members and was sitting in a UPS warehouse for three months. Wine writers who also play in bands are automatically Fifth Growth because almost everyone hates them.
Here then is the Wine Writer Classification of 2013, the undisputed list of who’s who in the wine writing world. Next update: 2023
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."
"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."