Monday, August 24, 2015

Blind Book Review: Karen MacNeil's "The Wine Bible 2nd Edition"

The only bibles I’ve ever read were television bibles, which are the keys to the characters and plotlines, written by the series’ creators, of individual television series. Television bibles teach us to worship Mammon, and Norman Lear. Mammon has more hit shows. As well as the leading Republican candidate for President. The Bible, capitalized, and usually qualified by the word “Holy,” as in “cow” and “shit,” is a book that, ashamedly, I’ve never read. The publisher refused to send me a review copy. Coincidentally, I haven’t received a review copy of Karen MacNeil’s soon to be released The Wine Bible 2nd Edition either. Which means that I am able to evaluate and criticize it completely objectively, much as wine critics claim to evaluate wine. They’re mostly lying. But they are on the right track. Actually reviewing wines blind is honorable work, though far too humbling to pursue for a living. The many folks who will ultimately review MacNeil’s newer version of The Wine Bible will also claim to have read it. They’re mostly lying, too. This is the beauty of the wine business. We like drinking and lying. Not necessarily in that order.

In her press and on her blog, MacNeil says she “is the only person in the United States to have WON EVERY MAJOR WINE AWARD (her capitalization, which is a lovely measure of journalism in itself) in the English language.” So, fuck you Roederer International Wine Writing Awards! MacNeil hasn’t won a Roederer Award, therefore they are not MAJOR WINE AWARDS by definition. Pretty sure she hasn’t won a Wine Blog Award either, but there’s that damned “MAJOR” in there, so I guess she’s off that particular hook. Not to mention “the English language,” to which most wine blogs have only a vague resemblance. I’ve won three Wine Blog Awards, and they’re to wine writing what lethal injections are to the death penalty. This from a guy who has WON EVERY MAJOR WINE BLOG AWARD in the English language. If there were any.

Wine has more guides than Everest has Sherpas. The Oxford Companion, World Atlas of Wine, A Connoisseurs’ Guide, Essential Guide, a Dummies Guide, an Idiot’s Guide, a Jerk’s Guide, an Asshole’s Guide, Riedel’s Guide (which is a compilation of the previous three)… And all the guides will tell you that buying their guide will help you understand wine. Maybe. But what they really help you understand is that wine is hard to understand, even in alphabetical order. That wine writing is couched in mystical and incomprehensible language, impenetrable metaphors and dumbfounding similes. Which is why wine guides are exactly like The Holy Bible—books that are filled with mythical stories and bizarre language with the intent of making you believe in your own insignificance in the scheme of things. Only MacNeil is the one who figured that out first and grabbed the catchy title, and is now releasing The Wine Bible 2nd Edition. I’m just surprised she didn’t call it The Wine New Testament.

The wine world is expanding faster than Subway’s Jared at the Kid’s Choice Awards. And MacNeil has expanded her guide to cover wines from regions that are new to most wine lovers. There’s a section on Mexican wines, wines derided by Donald Trump as “smuggled into the US by Mexico’s countless grapists.” MacNeil defends Mexican wines, and, in her inimitable voice, calls them, “Up and coming, like your taco truck lunch.” There’s an incisive entry about the wines of China. “Better than you think. Wines to make you smile. The Mao, the merrier.” She even visits the obscure country of Brangelina to taste their wines. “Lovely, pink and effervescent,” she writes, “like Elton John in a hot tub.”

The Wine Bible 2nd Edition is not just for the beginning wine lover, it’s also for experienced wine lovers looking to spend that annoying $25 Amazon gift card just to get rid of it. It’s fun and lively in a way best summed up by the word, “comprehensive.” It’s more than 1000 pages, each numbered! It’s a wine book heaped with praise.

“It’s the greatest wine book I’ve ever seen. Makes me wish I could read.”—Danny Meyer

“A guide that has all the answers—like your annoying 16-year-old.”—Bobby Flay

“You don’t have to be an Idiot or a Dummy to buy this wine guide—but it sure helps!”—Hugh Johnson

Fortunately, I’ve never read the first edition of The Wine Bible. It might have thrown me off. I hear it’s about wine. Endlessly about wine. And I would guess, since I haven’t read it, and thoroughly enjoyed not reading it, that The Wine Bible 2nd Edition even has Ten Commandments.

Thou shalt have no other guides before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any trademarked images.

Thou shalt not take the score of the guide, thy God, in vain.

Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt only unscrew.

Thou shalt not stink of ambergris at a wine tasting—perfume is just whale Preparation H.

Thou shalt not steel, especially when making Chardonnay.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s DRC.

Honor thy mother and thy father and thy sommelier.

Thou shalt not kill, except for 100 point wines.

Thou shalt not forget to wipe.

I’m not sure about the last one, but it’s damned fine advice.


Bryan Scott said...

Another LOL Monday morning over coffee, HoseMaster. Thank you.

Will you be giving Lo Hai Qu a chance to chime in on the Riedel Affair? You might suggest she read the opening pages of Dalton Trumbo's "The Time of the Toad" for inspiration, if she's blocked.


Don Clemens said...

"The wine world is expanding faster than Subway’s Jared at the Kid’s Choice Awards." Way to keep it current, Ron! And the Riedel compilation wasn't bad either. As always, thank you for getting my Monday off to a great start.

Alexandra O' Gorman said...

You make me giggle Ron! Thank you for for continuing to share your wit with all of us. (That Jared bit was gross and brilliant. Nearly spit my coffee out...) xo

Ziggy said...

Where can I donate a dinero to make sure this MAJOR WINE BLOG never ceases to exist?
(headin out to the taco truck)

Tom In Real Life said...

I can't tell if you need therapy or if writing this blog IS therapy. At any rate, please keep writing... my Monday's just wouldn't be the same without a steaming cup-o-sarcasm from the Hosemaster.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks. I don't know where Lo's been lately. She's apparently on a leave of absence, probably shacked up with some guy she met at TexSom. I'm not sure. I hope she returns. I sort of miss the little tramp.

Oh, the HoseMaster is always fresh as yesterday's salad. Thanks, as always, for being a common tater.

Hey, Gorgeous! I've missed you. Way past time for us to share a meal. Though let's skip the coffee course...

A big smooch back at you, Love.

I'm a MAJOR PAIN IN THE ASS, for sure. MAJOR WINE BLOG--oh, I'm no Sermontation. I'm just a regular guy with an odd point of view. And apparently too much time on my hands.

Oh, I've had therapy, Tom. Though it may not have been the best. Is the couch supposed to vibrate?

Actually, writing the blog isn't therapy, it's work. A chance to work at something I rather enjoy, though I dislike the results most of the time. I suppose that's therapy, of a kind. Though the more "famous" I get, the more difficult it all becomes for me. Ah, the wonders of the comic mind...

Thanks for being a newer common tater!

Charlie Olken said...

Judging by the number of people who have not commented on your review, I am guessing that they have not read it either, in one or both of its carnations and incarnations.

I often think that these reviews are among your best works because they always have the ring of truth about them. And they are marvelous vehicles for satire. Indeed, it is probably a lot better to review without reading.

And I am wondering who returns first--LHQ or Larry Anosmia.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Since all the recent brouhaha, I've just felt like cranking out comfortable stuff. Child's Guide to Wine, a Blind Book Review, they are fun and easy for me. I don't expect many common taters to show up. And I'm fine with that. Gives me a break after a long few weeks.

It's odd, but "The Wine Bible" is one of the few wine reference books I don't own. No particular reason. So I truly haven't read even a page of it. But I think I get MacNeil's "style," and the conceit that she's won EVERY MAJOR WINE WRITING AWARD just makes me laugh. MacNeil, however, laughs all the way to the bank.

I haven't seen Larry Anosmia lately either. Though, at TexSom, Larry Stone MS approached me, said some kind words of support, and then confessed that he worried that Larry Anosmia was modeled after him. I, of course, said he was. Though he's not.

I'm hoping Lo is around soon. I like her much better. And I may have another "voice" in my head. I'm still trying to catch it.

Aaron said...

Thank you for a last chuckle before I go off to drink wine in a dusty desert festival.

Karen MacNeil said...

Hi Ron: You are the best! Seriously, I love your stuff. If I was as talented as you, I'd have written the Wine Qur'an and the Wine Torah, too.

I'll personally send you a new second edition of The Wine Bible when it comes out.
Your fan, Karen

Marcia Macomber said...

I see Karen has our zingers...a very good sign since your last "review" didn't go over quite as well! Yes, when LoHi returns (perhaps legally safer?) have her take a crack at a few. I'd make a suggestion about her and her girlfriends taking a day off to ride a certain train with wine, but that might be pushing it too far right now... :-)

Marcia Macomber said...

Oh, dear...didn't proof well enough "her" zingers -- not "our."

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hello Karen,
Those are very kind words. Thank you. What would be really tough would be writing the Wine Book of Mormon. Though I know if you have five wives, you perform a Meritage ceremony.

I shall eagerly await the Wine Bible 2. Thank you very much. Oh, if it's anything as good as "Porky's 2" I'll be ecstatic!

Marcia Love,
Yup, so far no attorneys for Karen. Kind of refreshing. I'm actually surprised she's even heard of me. I haven't even heard of me. And now I'm glad.


David Pears said...

Hi Ron

Actually, I like the "comfortable" pieces as much (or even more, regarding the child's book of wine delusions) as the attorney- (and thought-)provoking pieces.
I have probably broken all of the commandments (apart from the last, that is). I am so sorry, Karen!
I agree with Bryan and Marcia - we really need to hear from Lo Hai Qu! I would love to hear if she is attending that party-wagon on the train that has been provided to the eleven members of the book reading club, where they have been promised that they can be as noisy as they want to and invite 39 guests.
And how is the romance between Shizzangela and Dr. Conti going - or has Lo taken over her place besides him in the correctional facility?

Keep on writing and you'll be un-famous once again in no time,

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I've always tried to write whatever comes to mind, and to vary tone and style all the time. Sadly, the harshest pieces get all the play, but that's the nature of the Intergnats. They get all the criticism, too. It's tempting to just use the nastiest HoseMaster voice all the time, but that would get mighty dull. As for this piece...well, it is what it is.

Lo will reappear sometime. And Shizzy and Loqueesha. I miss her, too, but I only let her out occasionally. She crazy.