Monday, February 27, 2017
Wine Critics in Hell Act 7
ACTS 1-6 ARE HERE
Things are getting messy in Hell. The Bartender has just shot Suckling, who was threatening to stab Matt Kramer with a broken piece of Riedel (“Riedel—The Official Stemware of Eternal Damnation”®)—broken pieces of which are about as hard to find as insect parts in your breakfast cereal. This begs the question, can you kill someone who is already confined to Hell? Antonio Galloni tried to exit the Hell that is a Natural Wine bar in Lodi only to find that there is no escape—there never is from our own private Hell, is there? Laube hasn’t moved from his stool at the bar much. Alice Feiring seems either repulsed, or slightly aroused, by the senseless shooting of Suckling. OK, by the shooting of Suckling. Matt Kramer seems to be in a state of shock, while Parker seems bemused. The Stranger is looking at the Tarot Cards on the table in front of him and nodding in affirmation.
Galloni: (to the Bartender) Shoot me next! I want out of here.
(The Bartender casually replaces the gun beneath the bar and goes back to washing wine glasses. Suckling hasn’t moved. There is little concern.)
Laube: (wearily, and angrily, he rises from his bar stool and begins to speak, suddenly articulate) That sucking Fuckling tried to kill Kramer. What the hell? What’s the point of trying to kill Kramer, except that everyone hates him? We write about wine. All of us here. We just write about wine. We don’t do anything important. Nothing we write is important. We’re among the least important people in the universe. Not one of us has any real talent. We deal in adjectives. We sell myths. We put countless wines in our mouths and assign them arbitrary numbers. There’s no talent there. A good waiter in a good restaurant has more importance to wine than we do. We each chased our selfish little fixation on wine, our fascination with the romance of wine, our devotion to overindulgence in wine, and we stumbled into careers handing out recycled advice and completely worthless numbers. We think we’re important. Now we’re in this wine writers’ Hell. Trying to be the most important of the inarguably unimportant. We’re small people.
(Laube pauses. He takes a deep breath and gazes down at the motionless Suckling. The other writers are silent, dumbstruck at the suddenly loquacious Laube.)
We sell bullshit! We write countless articles and stacks of books that talk about the importance of wine, the beauty of wine, the almighty wonder of wine… And it’s all bullshit. In the next breath we lump all those wonders into lovely little bunches of scores. Ten thousand wines that are all 89s. Another ten thousand that are 90s. We take all that is beautiful and wondrous about wine and we reduce it to two digits. But it’s not the scores that are bullshit. No. The scores are right. Everybody thinks the 100 point scale is a joke, that the 100 point scale is the problem. The 100 point scale isn’t the joke. Most of what you need to know about 99% of the wines in the world is a number. 85. 88. 93. That’s all anyone needs to know. The joke is that we make a living saying the same old bullshit about wine that has been said for two hundred years. The joke is that we go from region to region, variety to variety, winemaker to winemaker, and, like yeast excrete alcohol, we excrete bullshit. Utter, complete, unmitigated, relentless, tireless, certified bullshit!
Every new wine we discover, every new region we discover, every new variety we discover, we write about in the same breathless, authoritative, and completely disingenuous double-talk. Terroir, biodynamics, natural wine, minimal intervention, authentic wine—it’s just crap. It’s shit we’re making up, shit we’ve agreed to promote, a sort of vinous mysticism that intends to befuddle, and intends to make ourselves seem wise. We can’t prove any of it. We can’t explain with any degree of accuracy what the fuck we’re talking about. But we have to say something. The numbers, which are what really express the value of the wine, aren’t enough. Not enough to justify our prestige and presence, our salaries, the fancy letters after our names, anyway. We’re wine writers, goddamit, not wine statisticians, we need to write.
Only, maybe we are wine statisticians. We crunch our imaginary numbers and try to make sense of them. The problem is, when you crunch numbers that have no actual relationship to wine, you get results that have no relationship to wine. So we make up stories, we sell marketing untruths, we spend our time selling ourselves in the guise of educating the public. Or we spread history on top of our work as a kind of horse manure, as though history is what makes wine great, or that history will make us seem more intelligent. But what we’re doing is selling bullshit. We’re bullshit salesmen. And now we’re all here in Hell because, finally, we got caught with our foot in the door.
(From the floor, Suckling does a sarcastic slow clap. Laube walks back to the bar and unceremoniously tosses back a full glass of the house red wine in Hell—Lodi Zin.)
Suckling: Hell is a place where Laube holds forth. God knows, he’s never been anywhere near first.
(Alice rushes over to Suckling.)
Alice: James! You’re alive! We thought you were dead. Which gave us great hope.
Stranger: Alive? Dead? What’s the difference, Alice? There’s no difference here. There’s no difference anywhere. Life and Death are just two sides of the same coin, like natural wine and every other wine. Grapes no longer have life after you make them into wine, Alice. And yet you ascribe “life” to the wines they produce. You ascribe “energy,” and “authenticity” to them. So where’s the line? Is it just your line? Are you the one who decides what “alive” means? If a woman who practices a healthy lifestyle gives birth to a child, is that child better, more valuable, more important than a child of a woman who isn’t completely natural? Is her son fake, less interesting, less authentic? Is nature that simple? Is wine that simple?
Alice: (under her breath) I hate this fucking place.
Stranger: Oh, Miss Feiring, the fun is only starting. (He looks down at his Tarot cards.) Here, look at the cards. (Alice gazes over the Stranger’s shoulders). More visitors are coming. Wait, are they visitors or permanent customers? Hard to tell from the cards. Are you a visitor? Or have you found your eternal residence? (He laughs.) And, look. Here, these cards. Do you know what these mean?
Stranger: 2017 is going to be the vintage of the century in Bordeaux.