Monday, May 18, 2015

What We Lie About When We Lie About Wine

The HoseMaster of Wine™ is proud to announce the publication of his first book, “What We Lie About When We Lie About Wine.” If the HoseMaster is famous, he’s famous for lying about. In his first book, the HoseMaster explores the various ways wine experts, winemakers, wine marketers, wine writers and other prevaricators lie about wine. White lies, red lies, orange lies, even rosé lies—it’s dishonesty that drives the wine business. Finally, here’s a refreshingly dishonest look at “What We Lie About When We Lie About Wine.”

In advance of the book’s publication (it’s already reached #1 on the New York Tines Bestseller List—no, that’s not a typo, go fork yourself), here are a few excerpts from the book, as well as some of the rave reviews from many of the lying bastards featured in it.


"One of the easiest ways to spot folks who are lying about wine is the use of wine qualifiers; that is, an adjective that precedes the word “wine.” There are many examples. Natural wine, cult wine, balanced wine, 100-point wine, Gold Medal wine… Remember that it’s unnecessary, and always manipulative and misleading, to qualify what is simply fermented grape juice. Be wary. When you hear “natural wine,” react the same way you react to the phrase “honest politician.” “Politician” is information enough. You can be the judge if that politician is honest, though if that politician has been elected to office, chances are nil. “Natural” wine advocates are like “honest” politicians—they’re always going to tell you the other people are the ones who are lying. I find it best to assume everyone who claims their wine is superior to other people’s wine is being intellectually dishonest. And an asshole."


"Ever since its inception, the 100 Point Scale has been controversial. Robert Parker, the critic responsible for introducing the 100 Point Scale, has recently been quoted to the effect that when he retastes wines that he awarded 100 points, he finds that he agrees with his own points about 50% of the time. Not something wine critics tell you before you buy the wines they awarded high scores. It’s a lot like a brain surgeon saying, “Don’t worry, the operation is completely safe and without complications. For the 50% of people who survive it.” It’s best to remember to buy two bottles of a wine rated 100 points just to be sure that one of them is a 100 Point wine.

Lying about wine with points is one of our favorite ways to lie about wine. We tell ourselves that it makes perfect sense to attach a definitively objective number to a supremely subjective experience because it’s useful, and, moreover, the people love it. The same could be said for public executions and multi-car accidents. However, one does have to be qualified to lie about wines this way. Nothing is more irritating than a liar who simply isn’t qualified to lie about the subject. We expect only our most trusted experts to make shit up."


"The public’s, and the press’, current obsession with alcohol levels is another way we lie about wine. A wine with lower alcohol is praised as having better balance, as being more reflective of its terroir, as being more natural. Of course, to begin with, all of this is based on the information listed on the wine’s label, information that is incorrect the vast majority of the time. Alcohol levels listed on wine labels are about as reliable as the weights listed on people’s dating profiles on With wine and your next date, just assume it’s going to be a lot heavier. But, hey, it might be hotter, too!

And, really, we lie to ourselves about the alcohol in wine because we want to believe that we drink wine for its complex aromas and layered fruit flavors, for wine’s tradition and sophistication, rather than for the alcohol. There is no truth in this. We drink wine first and foremost for the way it makes us feel, for its ability to convince us we’re charming and witty when we’re actually sloppy and drunk. If there were no alcohol in wine, there would be no wine business. Wine without alcohol is like tires without air—flat and useless."


"Our sense of smell is tied closely to memory, but is only a passing acquaintance with language. Describing a wine is much like spending time with a police sketch artist—we try to illuminate a wine by picking it apart and describing the pieces, trying to capture the whole under the illusion we can see all the parts correctly. It’s a kind of verbal autopsy. It might be accurate, but you can be sure the wine is far beyond dead when you’re done. Then we use those autopsy results as an affirmation of the stupid number we came up with to rank the wine, as though those poor results validate the other random ones. And suddenly those once very alive wines are butterflies named and mounted in a frame—really pretty but indisputably empty of life." 

“What We Lie About When We Lie About Wine” is an appropriately dishonest look at the way almost everything we know about wine is based on lies. Here’s what a few influential wine people have to say about the HoseMaster of Wine™’s first book:

“I thought I was the master of wine fraud until I read the HoseMaster’s book.”—Rudy Kurniawan

‘What We Lie About When We Lie About Wine’ might be the stupidest book I’ve read all year, and I read ‘Natural Wine.’”—Kermit Lynch

“To paraphrase Twain, there are lies, damned lies, and marketing. The HoseMaster needs more of all three.”—Jay McInerney

“I’d wait for the audio book, except it would be like a John Cage composition—lots of noise that has little meaning.”—Eric Asimov


Karl Kelsey said...

Ron - You are the Al Franken of the wine industry in more than one way - not simply because of your obsession with the truth. You both can be funny, you both can be ineffectual (although in different ways) and you both seem to be trying hard to make life better.

Brian Baker said...


...great post, as usual...and on that topic, I love how the "flash sale" sites burn right next to the edge of truth as well. For example Invino just sent me an email with this subject line:

Scarecrow Star's 95pt Brilliant Napa Gem (54% svgs)

Guess what three things jump out?
Scarecrow, 95 pts. and 54% off.

When you dive in you find it's mercenary juice made by Kari (the Scarecrow winemaker and many other brands) and it's a brand called Stepping Stone-- that it's Cab Franc may be a disappointment to some as well

However, it is the sales and marketing side of the biz and well, being one of them-- I know we are consummate benders of truth.

Baker Out

Aaron said...

And here I'm disappointed that this isn't actually a book. Come on Ron, eventually you're going to actually going to have to go ahead and make one of your products so we can all be foolish enough to buy it!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You're right about the ineffectual part. Funny is a matter of some dispute.

Oh, man, those flash sites are the masters of innuendo and outright falsehoods. It's like putting perfume on dog shit--if you're totally blind, it might pass the sniff test, but it's still shit.

I've recently been obsessed with the idea of creating a library of fictional wine books by the HoseMaster of Wine™, a kind of imaginary canon of wine literature. It's far more fun to imagine books than actually write them.

Amy Jean said...

I am so guilty of the "verbal autopsy." But like most MEs, I don't perform them for free.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Amy Jean,
This "verbal autopsy" thing might be catching on...

Never do anything for free, Amy Jean, especially writing a wine blog.

Bob Henry said...

Nice to see someone has updated Jerry Maguire's plaintive manifesto:

"The Things We Think and Do Not Say"

Bob Henry said...

First you review wine books you haven't actually read.

Now you ponder the notion of excerpting wine books that haven't actually been written.

Hmmm . . . I like the symmetry of it all.

I'm acquainted with Canon-la-Gaffelière.

Would this be Canon-la-HoseMaster™?

Charlie Olken said...

How come the comments on your book are all from New Yorkers (except for Kermit who lives here but would rather live in France)? Does not anyone in California know how to read? Or is it that we do not know how to read books that have not yet been written?

That is a skill we are going to learn by reading the Hosemaster--at our own risk, of course.

Charlie Olken said...

Oh, and as for me, I am off to France later today where I will be doing research for a book that I won't write and will look for a postcard to send to you that I will not write.

Matt said...

During a routine excavation of a Paris townhouse one of my clients broke through a wall and found these quotes about he Hosemaster's book by Thomas Jefferson!

- Hardy Rodenstock

"Lie to and obscure wine for the whole mass of the people... This is the only sure reliance for the preservation of our industry." -Th. J. 1784

"When the wine writer fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the wine writer, there is tyranny." - Th. J. 1784

There may be more...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

And soon, with any luck, I'll have a blog I don't even write!

No California blurbs because it's three hours later here and I was in a hurry.

Have fun in France! I'm excited you're not writing a book. All of my favorite books of yours are the ones you haven't written. And I'll look forward to the postcard you won't send. You can be sure it will hang proudly on the refrigerator without a magnet.

Very nice. I'd sent Thomas Jefferson a copy of WWLAWWLAW but hadn't heard from him. Nice blurbs. Now if only I'd hear from that asshole John Adams...

Don Carter said...

Ron, great non-non-fiction. I took the book I didn't write to a publisher and they agreed to publish just one copy. It was a self-help book.

Jason Nolley said...

Ron -

I was with you until you quoted Eric Asimov. That guy is more crooked than a Riedel decanter.

Unknown said...

At this point in time, the cyclical business of wine has become more of a seller's market.
It is remarkable how many wineries suddenly have experienced "shortages" and don't have enough wine.

One producer no longer lists the case production on its tech sheets (as they are making much more wine than they did 10 or 15 years ago).
It strikes me as creative writing, though.

They claim Mother Nature had violent winds at one point, adversely impacting the crop level. Yet they claim they had to re-prune the vines and still had to "green harvest" on a number of occasions!
If the crop level was severely reduced, why would you have to do so much green harvesting, I wonder?
A neighboring vintner told me his vineyard experienced none of the problems of the prestigious producer next door.

Today the marketing director of another winery called to explain their "problems" with production in 2012, claiming they had a short crop. The Napa Valley Vintners web site, though, says crop levels were "near normal" in terms of quantity and as much as 30% larger than the previous two vintages.


So...Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Anonymous 1,
Always a treat when you show up.

I've often said that it's funny how wineries and winemakers and wine critics have, in the eyes of the public, this unearned cloak of honesty. And yet the biz is as full of crap, and outright lies, as show business. Now, none of it really matters, which is the important thing to remember, but image does (just like show business), and lying to protect your image is seen as "marketing." It's hilarious. And, even worse, they think someone of your experience and stature won't see through them! That's genuinely hilarious.

I could, actually, write a book of substantial length with this title. I know you could, too. Yours would be funnier.

Micah Nasarow said...


My wines are superior to other people’s wine.

Boom...mic drop...outta here

Bob Henry said...

"And soon, with any luck, I'll have a blog I don't even write!"

No doubt taking a page from the playbook of Tom Sawyer, who "conned" the village kids into whitewashing Aunt Polly's picket fence?

gabriel jagle said...

I always say that the alcohol listed on the label is "based on a true story". But maybe you should ask Micah, his wines are clearly superior

Ron Washam, HMW said...

"Based on a true story" is the very essence of What We Lie About When We Lie About Wine. It's Marketing 101.

I've never had Micah's wines or your wines. So they're both inferior.

gabriel jagle said...

Ron, I'm spending the next couple weeks bottling my first batch of wines as a Head Winemaker. I look forward to giving you the opportunity to taste them, and prove once and for all how inferior they can be.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Fantastic! Congratulations Head Winemaker! I will look forward to tasting them. I'll taste them blind against that Micah guy's wines... And I'll randomly assign points just like real wine critics.

WineKnurd said...

Ron, I took the liberty of writing the shelf-talker for your book:

Soft and fruity, with impressive quickness on the finish, it's the kind of book you can't put down due to the stroke induced seizures while reading"

Da 'Knurd

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Great! Now all I need is an actual book to put on that actual shelf. Couldn't you at least have given me a score? 97 would be lovely.

And now I'm worried about giving an illegal search and seizure.

gabriel jagle said...

Thanks Ron! I look forward to seeing how I do on your famous million point scale