Monday, June 27, 2016

The MS and the HMW--The Hair and The Hair Not Apparent


Creating and writing HoseMaster of Wine™ has been a remarkable experience for me. I’ve said this repeatedly—I’m amazed anyone reads this crap. And, truthfully, not that many people do. Not compared to, say, Wine Spectator, or The Wine Advocate, or any other throwaways. But in the tiny pond that is wine satire, I’m not so much the big fish as I am the pond scum. I look interesting, but once I get on you, it’s pretty disgusting. You feel like you need a shower.

Wine has been my career. I take it seriously. But taking wine too seriously is, to the HoseMaster, profoundly silly. Writing is also a lifelong passion of mine. I take writing seriously, too. I’m not sure what bothers me more about wine writing on the Intergnats—the emptiness of the subject matter, or the amazing dearth of writing talent. You have only to glance through the winners of the recent Wine Blog Awards—for the love of God, don’t waste any time on them—to understand my disdain.

Satire matters. I inadvertently created a small niche for myself in the wine writing business by satirizing all things wine. I will not claim to be a great satirist. Relentless, maybe, but far from great. I do try to be equally unfair to everyone. I don’t have an agenda. I’m an Equal Opportunity Offender. A lot of wine bloggers hate me, a lot of wine writers hate me (no, bloggers are not by definition writers—typing is not writing, no matter what marketing folks say), and a lot of sommeliers hate me. It’s the gig. You want to be loved by the wine biz, write praise, propaganda and pap. It’s everywhere. Take a whack at it. I prefer to be slightly feared, mildly admired, and generally disliked. And left alone.

A couple of weeks ago, Geoff Kruth MS, sent me an email asking me if I would engage in an email conversation with him about sommeliers, a conversation that would be published on the Guild of Sommeliers (Guildsomm) site. I confess to being surprised. I've not been kind to Master Sommeliers, sommeliers, or to Mr. Kruth. But that's not what I do here, is it? Geoff offered to pay me for my time. I assented to the conversation, but donated my time. His monetary offer was generous, but I felt that donating my meager talents to the Guild of Sommeliers was a small act of kindness to a group of folks who have provided me with astonishing amounts of comic material. Seemed like good karma.

Anyhow, the conversation was published last week on their site, and since I was too busy to crank out my usual crap this week, I am linking to it as my Monday post. It's like having a week off! If you’re interested in the conversation between Geoff Kruth, Master of All Sommeliers, and the HoseMaster of Wine™, by all means, check it out. If you’re not interested, go on over to Wine Folly and see what mindless crap she’s up to.

Here is the link:

GUILDSOMM

13 comments:

Andrea Fulton said...

Well Ron, Let me be the first to conclude that you are, indeed, "great". Not in the same way a vintage Champagne is great, but, nonetheless, you have mastered the craft of Satire and that is a great accomplishment. So that makes you "great".
This interview was spectacular!!!
It should be copied and posted in any restaurant that has a person dedicated to recommending and serving wine.
At 63, having only passed Certificate level in 1989, I am still on the floor, and still loving it for all the reasons you outline
I know my place on the Floor, and in the World,
I am lucky...very lucky indeed.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Andrea,
I'm also 63, and content to be a recovering sommelier. I loved the job, and I do miss it at times, but not very often.

Folks like Geoff want to expand the definition of "sommelier." Obviously, creating a bigger tent means you can accommodate more clowns. I'm OK with that. Lots of people claim to be writers who aren't. I worked with a lot of waiters who claimed to be actors. I meet a lot of "sommeliers" who don't know much about wine and have never worked on a restaurant floor. It means that the profession has achieved some kind of celebrity status. I'm someone who thinks that is undeserved.

Thanks for chiming in, Andrea. I hope our paths cross one day. The good news about posts like this is the scarcity of comments. Nice to have a day off.

Quizicat said...

I enjoyed the interview. I hope some of the assorted MW, MS and LSMFTs take some of it to heart. I won't be holding my breath.
I recently had an encounter with one of them at a wine tasting on a cruise. I was afraid he was going to throw his back out by patting himself there so vigorously. He couldn't stop himself. We actually got to taste some nice wines, Lucente, Tignanello, Solaia, Ornellaia and Massetto. So it wasn't all bad, but I wanted to punch him in the head. I guess it's not easy being fabulous.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Quizicat,
There are so many qualified and wonderful sommeliers, I know more than a few, but the image of sommelier as snob persists. I believe that begins with putting letters after your name. CSW? WSET? Those are NOT difficult exams, and nothing to brag about. It's the equivalent of putting L.D. after your name because you passed the Driver's Test at the DMV and you're now a licensed driver. So the fuck what?

Putting those letters on your business card, or on your email signature, is begging to be asked what they mean. And that means you want to impress people, which means, of course, that you're a pretty small, insecure human to begin with. Or a snob. They send the wrong message.

I am unconcerned whether anyone takes my words to heart. Again, it's only wine, and this sort of controversy is but a pimple on the asscheek of life.

Unknown said...

Ron:
I stand accused of having the letters after my name - only in the vague hope that the MS/MW/CSW/CWE/LSMFT I'm calling on will at least know that I know my reds from my whites. And having interviewed dozens of individuals already in the wine business who have trouble reaching that level of erudition, it does occasionally help. That being said, you hit the cork on the head - Wine Service should be about increasing the customer's enjoyment of the dining adventure - not intimidating him into the latest Gruner or Orange Wine or whatever...
Great interview!!

Falco Peregrinus said...

Ron,
However much I enjoy the extreme of satire in your other posts, I must say the balance and level-headedness in this discussion is also impressive.
Whoever said that "humor is despair being polite" (or something like this, this is my own rough translation from the french original) was probably thinking of you without knowing it.
At the end of the day we're always talking of 75cl of fermented grape juice, with a lot of culture attached.

Batmang said...

Very interesting and entertaining interview with some typical Hosemaster gems (Das Bucket for one), but also some terrific observations on the current state of our society in general. We could all use more compassion and listening skills. Thank you HMW; I'll see you in the parking garage. (Evening gown and all.)

Nathan

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

You know I am one of the HoseMaster's biggest fans but it is the pieces where I get to hear Ron Washam that are my favorite. I loved this exchange so much, and for several reasons, not the least of which is his willingness to ask after you had publicly gone after him. There is tension in the piece and I sort of love that about it. I did have to laugh out loud at the whole "party trick" thing, that really is a comment that just twists the hell out of those somm kids undies. I've said it before, (and I happen to be one of those that is quite good at said trick) and the two times someone got all miffed was two friends that have a shinny little pin. So funny to me. It is a trick, not one that anyone said didn't require talent, but a trick none the less and for as much validity as they give it, that movie you hate, (and you and I disagree there) proves as much....they all picked different wines in the blind tasting and yet....

I love you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
It was an interesting exchange, and Geoff gave me free reign to say what I wanted and not edit me at all. The tension is always going to be there, but that's what satire is about--tweaking people, using laughter and logic to make a point.

We don't disagree about SOMM, really. I've never seen it. And I wonder how much you'd love it if you didn't know and like the director. My only bone to pick with it is how folks have used it to glorify the occupation, and how it depicts ONE way to become a SOMM. I still have no desire to see it.

Blind tasting is a party trick. It's a useful way to learn, but as validation of ones wine skills, it's a party trick. And, yes, you are supremely good at it. As you are at so many sensual things.

I love you, too!

LeoFerrando said...

What an interview ! A pleasure to re-read it ... somms, please, must read this lesson of humility, and try to learn what is of the essence : make people enjoy the wine, that's it !
Thanks, Ron, another pearl for the necklace !

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Leo,
You're too kind. There are times when I think the less we talk about sommeliers, the better. I wonder, are there plumber chat rooms where they talk about proper butt crack display? That's often what sommelier discussions read like to me.

How did you know I look good in pearls?

Me Fine Wines said...

Okay Ron,
What wine is best served with skewered sommeliers? They love to tell you that they are "such a level sommelier" and then revert to calling themselves "somms". Chef envy? As I have often pointed out, in a restaurant you might want to know the "level" of the chef (maybe5'10"); the level of the manager; the level of the server and runner and busser - hell...what about the hostess/host! Most people are more worried about where their ass lands than what the food is. Bring me my Cab, you somm...monosyllables are great for today's non-thinkers. Chard...Zin...it could almost turn into Mandarin (ouch, it rhymes). Got some Dom, somm?
Great piece.
Pretentiously yours,
Paul R. Ellis ABC DEF GHI JKL MNO

Mel Knox said...

I was at a museum the other day and went on a tour. I asked the person leading the tour if he was a curator. He said he preferred the term, "Art Somm'...