"Irreverence is easy--what's hard is wit."--Tom Lehrer
Thursday, June 5, 2014
The HoseMaster's Comprehensive Guide to Wine 6
CHAPTER 8: THE PROPER USE OF WINE TERMINOLOGY
Everyone knows that wine has its own language. When listening to enthusiasts talk about wine, often only a few of the words seem recognizable, like listening to Klingons. Should you try to contribute to the conversation, chances are you will make a jackass of yourself and be submitted to the enthusiasts’ scorn. Always remember, wine lovers dislike the opinions of those who simply drink wine for enjoyment. Your views have no meaning and should be kept to yourself until you’re capable of understanding the language of wine, the importance of wine, and the impossibility of life without wine. Drinking wine simply as an enhancement to your meal, or for personal enjoyment, is for simpleminded assholes, troubled drifters, and Republicans. These are unpleasant categories to be assigned, believe me. Luckily, in this chapter of The HoseMaster’s Comprehensive Guide to Wine™, you’ll learn the proper use of the basic language of wine. Soon, you’ll be elevated from a homeless, troubled, asshole Republican to a wine expert! You’ll be able to drop the “Republican” part.
You can be forgiven for thinking “terroir” was Harry Waugh’s older brother Terry, who certainly now smells of the soil, but you’d be horribly wrong. Terroir is a French word, used by wine connoisseurs, that has no meaning, and is interchangeable with the words “I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.” For example, a wine lover might say, “This Chinon certainly shows fabulous terroir.” Now that you have the insider information, you know that he’s just remarked, “This Chinon certainly shows I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.” Many people will imply that terroir is an expression that takes into consideration where the wine was grown, what soil it was grown in, the microclimate, the regional characteristics of the wine, the techniques used to produce the wine, and even the influence of the winemaker—as though there could be one word to express all that and have it make sense. Yeah, right. Well, there is one word for all that, and that word is bullshit. So, as another example, you read a winery marketing brochure and it reads, “Our winemaker’s goal is to express our vineyard’s unique terroir.” Every lazy winery says this, as though other wineries are trying to express some other vineyard's terroir. This is why most wine marketing people are charter members of the Go Fuck Yourself Club™. An advanced student of wine language understands this sentence to read, “Our bullshit winery script’s goal is to express our vineyard’s I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.” Now you know that when you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about when it comes to a wine, yet you want to sound knowledgeable and educated about said wine, simply adopt your faux French accent and say confidently, “Wow, smell that terroir!” If someone asks you to define “terroir,” do what wine experts do, look at them disdainfully, shake your head, and walk away.
When you hear a wine enthusiast say that a particular wine is “Burgundian,” usually a Pinot Noir, what he means is that he is completely unfamiliar with Burgundy, and, thus, hasn’t the slightest inkling what Pinot Noir is all about, or what the fucking hell he’s talking about. Saying a Pinot Noir from somewhere other than Burgundy is “Burgundian” is like describing a urinal cake as a piece of “pee hockey equipment.” You’re aiming at the wrong target. What the wine lover means to say is that the Pinot Noir he’s encountered seems mysteriously underripe, infected with a barnyard aroma, and yet costs a lot of money, and he associates all of those things with Burgundy. So he’s an idiot, but the best way to communicate with him is to say, “Didn’t I meet you at the ‘In Pursuit of Balance’ tasting?”
You will often be confronted with a wine expert who says, “This wine needs food.” Essentially, this is the equivalent of saying, “This shoe probably needs another one to be useful.” You’ll find as you learn the language of wine that the best response to what a wine connoisseur says is often a simple, “Duh.” The statement, “This wine needs food,” begs the question, are there wines that are better without food? The answer is, Yes, any wine is when you just want to get shitfaced for fun. When a wine lover remarks that a wine is definitely a “food wine,” what that means is he’s trying to convince you that the crappy wine of his you just put in your mouth will taste better with the proper food, even though you and he both know it won’t. It’s a very stupid thing to say about a wine, and often expressed out of desperation for something seemingly intelligent to say about a wine, much like tasting a new vintage of a wine and declaring, “This wine tastes young.” Yeah, Sherlock, and it also needs food and has great terroir.
There is no agreed upon definition of Natural Wine, just as there is no agreed upon definition of Normal Sex. Once upon a time, Normal Sex was defined as sex between one man and one woman. That is to say, boring. Now Normal Sex might include several people, people of all three sexes, farm animals, and/or sock puppets. Throw anything in there and it’s now considered Normal Sex by somebody. It’s very nonjudgmental. Natural Wine is the opposite. Wine used to be all inclusive. Wine, as every beginner and non-wine-speaking person knew, was simply ripe grape juice fermented by yeast under the control of man in order to create a complex alcoholic beverage to grace the dinner table and make our wretched lives a bit better. The use of the phrase “Natural Wine” is very judgmental and non-inclusive, and is used to imply superiority to other wines, and more importantly, the superiority of the palates and morals of those who promote them. A wine is considered “Natural” when it has been exposed to as little human intervention as possible. “Natural Wine,” then, is wine’s answer to the Rwandan genocide or Ukraine, clear examples of how very little intervention leads to the desired results.
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."