"Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith."--Christopher Fry
Thursday, October 24, 2013
This particular satire of a controversial wine writer appeared on HoseMaster of Wine™ in May of 2010. The reaction to it was bigger than I had expected. I hadn't read a single word of Alice Feiring's work, but she was a polarizing figure in wine, so I spent an hour or so reading her blog, The Feiring Line, just to try and pin down her voice. Then I began to write, and this is what appeared. I heard from several friends who know her that she was unhappy about my piece. A few of my regular common taters felt it was harsh as well. You can decide for yourself. Satire doesn't need defending, and it has always been my goal to walk up to that imaginary line one isn't supposed to cross, and make everyone fear I'll actually cross it. Kind of a hobby...
So, here, from May 2010, is the legendary (sort of) Mis(s) Feiring:
What am I looking for in wine?
looking for the Gertrude Steins, the k.d. langs, the Dizzy Deans. Wines
that have a nasty screwball. Which I can relate to. I want my wines
natural. Think pubic hair. Think armpits. Makeup is OK, only a little,
but no animals tortured. Unless they're my critics who don't get it. I
write only for me, about wines for me. But I'm driving a bandwagon.
Under the influence, but a bandwagon nonetheless, and I want everyone to
be on it. Except Parker. He'd have to sit on the left side and everyone
else would have to sit on the right. Balance. Like wines. I seek
balance. Think tightrope walker. No balance, they're dead. Naturally. So
I'm a wine cop. With no authority. Except my own. I'll write you a
nasty ticket if you make wines that aren't natural. I'll throw the book
at you. My book. I wrote a book. You have it. It changed you. It changed
everyone. I'm a wine messiah. Follow me. I know people. I'll mention
all of them. Most are famous. Others should be. Who cares? I'm famous,
I'm a wine cop, I'm a messiah. I'm so lonely.
was asked to speak at a seminar. I'm the leading authority on Natural
Wines. No. Make that I'm the Only Authority on Natural Wines. I'm asked
to speak often. I changed the world. Like Gandhi. Like Martin Luther
King. Like the Exxon Valdez. The only disasters I like are natural too.
Earthquakes. Tsunami. Gamay.
I don't like giving speeches. I
like giving commandments. Thou shalt not sulfur. I remember Jesus said,
"Sulfur little children..." That was wrong too. Where was I?
room, issuing commandments, signing books. Michel Bettane was there,
he's a wine critic also. He's French. I like the French, they're so
natural. He had nose hair like a wire brush. I wrapped my fingers in it.
He asked me to sign my book for him. My book. You have it, I know, it
changed everything. I was happy to sign Bettane's book but the pen was
filled with synthetic ink. Not ink from an octopus or a squid or pasta. I
could not sully the book. I pricked my finger and signed in blood. It
felt good. Natural. I thought of Carole King. Maybe it was Bettane's
nose hair that reminded me of her hair. Jewish hair. Natural hair. "You
Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman!"
I probably shouldn't have sung it out loud.
I signed the book, With Love, Alice. Bettane smiled. I'm so lonely.
were there too. Mostly famous people to hear me. Maybe not famous to
you. Not yet. But famous to me, and I assign fame only for myself. To
myself. I'm a fame cop. Always copping the famous. Many great winemakers
were there. Did I mention this speech was in France? I love France. I
surrender to the French. No one's ever done that before. Usually the
other way around.
I hope that doesn't offend my French friends.
But I speak the truth. Someone has to. The wine world is filled with
liars and cheats, and, well, then your wine is filled with lies and
cheats. Is that what you want in your stool? Shit, I said stool.
another lie. Another commandment. Thou shalt only use wild yeast. I
almost typed wild Yeats. He was a poet. And a good one. He was at my
speech. But he's dead. Ironic. He often wrote of the dead. I signed a
book for him too. "To Bill" I wrote "you were far too cultured for my
No wine can be natural if it wasn't fermented by wild
yeast. Though yeast all over the world has been infiltrated by cultured
strains and there is no more wild yeast. I don't care. I have my
standards, my commandments. Pick out the cultured strains like they pick
out illegal aliens in Arizona. It can be done. I can tell when I taste.
I know when a wine was done with cultured yeast. It speaks to me. In an
English accent. I hate the English. The accent is fake, like my writing
style. The wines taste fake. You just know. You do. Ask anybody who
agrees with me.
Francois Ghitaine was there at my speech from
Domaine Hornswaggle. His wines are natural. When I visited Francois he
proudly showed me his cement vats for fermenting. Cement vats are making
a comeback. Why? They are better for the wine. There is concrete
evidence. Get it? Concrete evidence! Funnier in French. Francois even
goes so far as to ferment the wine in the vats before the cement has
even set. The flavors of the ground, the rocks, are in his wines. His
Petit Manseng is wet cement in a glass. It's perfect. I took a finger
and wrote my name in it. "Alice" I'm so lonely.
I was last at
Hornswaggle when only Francois' wife was there, Brigitte. She cooked for
me while I spoke to her in short sentences. Very short. I asked her
about their biodynamic lifestyle. She was blunt. Francois is a pig. She
told him to bury his damned man horns in the vineyard stuffed with the
manure he'd brought into their lives. I spoke more short sentences to
her. She cooked. Eggs, from a virgin chicken. Over easy. Just how I
wanted them. And her. She left weeping. The eggs were runny, like her
nose. But the wines are brilliant. I'm brilliant.
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.
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