Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Wines Are NOT HoseMasterized
Robert Parker feels that wines are not, and never have been, Parkerized. Never mind the consulting companies in California who break down the wines he awards high scores and then help manufacture wines along similar lines for their clients. Those don’t count. Those wines are the equivalent of the women who use the services of plastic surgeons to enhance their bustline—Hefnerized women. It seems Parker likes wines that have had Brett Enhancement surgery. And I’m sure James Laube believes wines he rates aren’t Laubotomized. He may be right. I’m unaware of anyone analyzing his high-scoring wines. Not even him. Would Tim Fish confess wines have become Deboned? But I’ll come right out and say it, I’m disturbed by the latest accusation of wines becoming HoseMasterized.
In a perfect world, a HoseMasterized wine would be one that attracts advertising, or simply has a $100 bill taped to it in the shipping box. Honestly, that’s just so much easier than actually making a wine that’s worthy of review. I don’t know why wineries don’t understand that. Sure, go ahead, try and guess what I’ll like, run it through a spinning cone, or add some MegaPurple, maybe fool around with reverse osmosis, see where that gets you. See how much it costs. And you’ll still end up surprised when my reviews aren’t that positive. You can’t factor in my mood, which is generally foul, or how inconsistent I am from week to week, or how much my daily Cialis affects my palate. Not to mention that I’m old, and my senses have retired to Scottsdale where they play golf five times a week. My nose has a 12 handicap. My tongue just cleans the balls.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. For example, there’s the 100 Point Scale. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t exist. In a perfect world, wines would generate their own numbers, numbers that would be chemically indisputable, like octane numbers at the gas pump. You could pick up a bottle of wine at your local wine shop and right on the label it would say “93.” And you’d know what that meant. Now you go to buy a wine and there’s some stupid shelf talker that says, “96-RP.” Normal people don’t know what that means. They don’t know that if it’s Spanish wine, RP probably stands for Jay Miller, and, therefore, 96 stands for 89. Oh, the wine shop knows that, but they don’t provide a translation card for shelf talkers when you walk in. Or if it’s Austrian wine, RP stands for David Schildknecht and 96 stands for 98. But it’s Austrian wine, so the odds you’re even shopping for it are pretty small, and if you are, it’s fairly certain you don’t have any friends, so ratings don’t matter. What if it’s from California? Holy crap. RP might actually stand for Robert Parker, and the 96 stands for, adjusting for inflation from 1987, 91. But, if it’s a more recent review, then it might stand for Antonio Galloni, in which case 96 is 99. Or it might be that new guy, Ashley Judd, and we don’t know what the hell 96 means, and, frankly, neither does he. And people who use the 100 Point Scale claim it makes things easier for the consumer. It does. Like Cliff’s Notes makes it easier to understand that “Moby Dick” is about whales that symbolize death.
So what is a HoseMasterized wine? Oh, my critics would say that it’s any wine that is engagingly aromatic, perfectly balanced, varietally correct and indescribably complex. These are wines, they say, that were obviously made for my palate. HoseMasterized. I’m a little tired of this sort of criticism. It simplifies my track record. But critics are nothing if not simpleminded. Critics are self-proclaimed experts, like religious messiahs, baseball analysts and Supreme Court justices. I think if you look at my track record, I’ve loved lots of average, even pretty crappy, wine. I think it’s fair to say that my defense of Chocolate Port may have been misguided. I once praised Norton, though I meant the character on “The Honeymooners,” and, suddenly, the entire state of Missouri was covered in it. So I’m not perfect, and I don’t think there is a style of wine I lean toward. And if there is, it’s certainly not wines that are elegant, beautiful, compelling and complex. If you read my work carefully, try the wines I recommend, I think you’ll agree.
And yet the claim persists. Wineries, and winemakers, my critics say, are trying to make delicious, sexy, gorgeous, wonderful wines just to please my palate. This is crap on the face of it. The wines today are just as dull and just as unremarkable as they were when I started 35 years ago. I’m a lot better at judging them, though clearly I was 50% of an idiot savant even then, but I’ve been nothing if not consistently unpredictable in my tastes and opinions. Sure, it makes a certain amount of sense that wineries around the globe would want the HoseMaster’s approval and recommendation. Duh. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can make wines that will meet with my approval.
But I give up. The press, the wine bloggers, the know-it-alls on wine chat rooms, they’re all going to continue to say that every brilliant wine, every wine that shows uniqueness and beauty, every wine that thrills and enchants, is HoseMasterized. I’m coming to terms with having to live with it. It doesn’t bother me so much, but it’s not fair to the people making truly great wine that it gets labeled HoseMasterized. They did the best they could. They tended the vineyards conscientiously, they understand minimal intervention that leads to maximum character, they have remarkable talent and experience. It’s not fair to them to say a wine was HoseMasterized.
So it’s to them I apologize. I never intended to be so powerful and famous. I did everything I could to annoy the wine establishment. I reviewed wines poorly, inaccurately, and randomly, but, dammit, I was always fair. I played favorites, I changed opinions mid-career, and I always believed in my infallibility.
Damn, I was Parkerized.