Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blind Book Review--"Inventing Wine"

I thought I’d break from my usual practice and actually read Paul Lukacs’ new book Inventing Wine before I reviewed it. Well, not read it very thoroughly and over a long period of time. What sense does that make? I planned to spend about five minutes skimming it, digesting it, and then I’d review it. This is how wine is reviewed, after all. Smell it, take a taste, spit it out, review it. I like to review wine books the same way, only you don’t need to smell them. One can assume they smell. Reviewing wine books in this manner certainly makes as much sense as reviewing wines that way, and has equal worth. But, somehow, once again, the HoseMaster’s review copy was lost in the mail. By the way, you can tell a review copy because it’s stamped along the edge, “Review Copy, Not for Resale.” I buy them all the time from yard sales at wine bloggers’ houses. This is called “monetizing your blog.” Of course, you don’t know for sure they’re a wine blogger until you actually go into the house and run into their parents.

The subtitle of Inventing Wine is “A New History of One of the World’s Most Ancient Pleasures.” Wine has been around about 8000 years. I wonder what the other world’s most ancient pleasures are. My first thought is lap dancing, which historians tell us goes all the way back to the discovery of the lap. Few people know that the Aztecs used lap dancing the same way we now use a mortar and pestle. Makes my pestle happy just thinking about it. Then there’s eating meat; I’m guessing that goes back at least 8000 years. I’ve had jerky at least that old. So wine, the title implies, is at least as pleasurable as lap dances and meat. Of course, wine is not as ancient a pleasure as the ones that go back to man’s discovery of fire—lighting farts comes to mind.

Also, for how long is this a “New History?” When it’s stacked up on remainder tables at Barnes and Noble, is it still a “New History?” Can’t it just be a history? New history is, by definition, history about ten minutes later. And what about “World’s Most Ancient Pleasures?” Shouldn’t it be “Man’s Most Ancient Pleasures?” The world’s most ancient pleasure would be, oh, I don’t know, gravity? Maybe rotating on its axis for several billion years. Try getting the world to do that if wine were one of its ancient pleasures. It would spin around a few times and fall right on its axis. So I didn’t read the book, but I sure as hell read the subtitle closely.

Wine, as we know it today, is certainly a modern invention, much different than it would have been even two hundred years ago, like the Internet. The wines everyone raved about in the 19th Century were the equivalent of dialup—mostly faulty, and left a bad taste in your mouth. The wines we obsess about today, the wines we endlessly compare and rate, the wines we try to pair with our genetically engineered foods, are the result of 20th Century technology and would be unrecognizable to a wine connoisseur from the 1860’s. To him, they’d taste like Chicken McNuggets taste to a coyote.

I haven’t read Inventing Wine, so I hope it doesn’t turn out to be about spinning cones, reverse osmosis and Vinturis (it always seems to me that using an aerator before drinking a wine is like using a vibrator before sex—sure, you’ve opened it up and released the bouquet, but what’s the fucking hurry?). From the brilliantly written subtitle, I’m assuming Lukacs examines how wine has evolved over the last 8000 years. And I think there’s a fantastic book in there somewhere. Judging from the blurbs on the back cover of Inventing Wine, scripted by some of the biggest names in wine, most of whom haven’t read it either, as is the custom with blurb writing in publishing, this is that book! Is there higher praise?

For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, wine was seen as a gift from God, like children, or Sofia Vergara. There were times when wine was a substitute for potable water, a tradition carried on today with Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, which is indistinguishable from it. But those were wines that would be unidentifiable to modern man as wine. They would have been bacterial broths, spoiled, foul, and vinegary, like the Soup of the Day at Chili’s. The chemistry of wine was little understood until the time of Louis Pasteur, who proved once and for all that living organisms spoiled wine, thus foreseeing the rise of the wine critics and sommeliers who’ve spoiled it for everyone.

And who are the people responsible for Inventing Wine? Jeez, I hope Lukacs talks about them. Why else write a book called Inventing Wine? You couldn’t write a book called Inventing Fried Chicken and not talk about Colonel Sanders or Popeye. So I liked the section of the book, had I read it, where Lukacs talks about the Cistercian monks, who were the first to recognize that wine reflected the place where it was grown. So not only can we blame the church for its subjugation of women, serial child molestation and homophobia, we can add terroir to the list. Bastards. Leave it to the church to take the fun out of everything it touches. And then there’s Dom Perignon, the Abner Doubleday of Champagne, yet another mucking funk. Pierre Perignon didn’t invent Champagne, he wasn’t blind, and he didn’t say, “I’m tasting stars.” That was Louis B. Mayer on the casting couch. Dom Perignon may have been responsible for figuring out the closure for a bottle of Champagne. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the monk seal. To this day, the most overrated monk of all time is commemorated by the most overrated Champagne of all time.

Oh, I’ve left out so much of what’s in the book, I think, I’ll find out if I ever read it. Man has a long history with wine, but for much of that history wine sucked. Man crushed a bunch of grapes, left the juice to ferment however it wished to ferment, incapable of controlling the temperature, or what bacteria or yeast was doing the fermentation, content to just let it finish, slap it into a holding vessel, hope it didn’t spoil too quickly, and then drink it to forget his worries and find some kind of joy in his altered state of consciousness. So, Natural Wine. Sure, they sucked, but Alice Feiring would have loved them. She had the bad luck to be born two hundred years too late.


Daniel in T-Town said...

hey Hosemaster,
when you are done not reading that book, can i borrow it to not read it as well? I've got a door that needs propping open, but I'd hate to get my copy of the Wine Bible dirty...

Daniel in T-Town

Micah Nasarow said...

OK..long time reader..first time reply-er.

I just have to say this post is a machine gun of one-liners.

Coffee Spit Take 1:
"Of course, wine is not as ancient a pleasure as the ones that go back to man’s discovery of fire—lighting farts comes to mind."

Coffee Spit Take 2:
"it always seems to me that using an aerator before drinking a wine is like using a vibrator before sex—sure, you’ve opened it up and released the bouquet, but what’s the fucking hurry?"

Coffee Spit Take 3:
"The wines everyone raved about in the 19th Century were the equivalent of dialup—mostly faulty, and left a bad taste in your mouth"

Ahhh..ya get the point.

Great read today!


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Don't worry about getting your Wine Bible dirty. You can always get another one at your local motel, where the Gideon Society puts them for free in the desk drawers. I need the wine books I don't read for my yard sale.

What took you so long? Thanks for finally chiming in. And thanks for the kind words. Out of curiosity, was yours the Classic Danny Thomas spit take? Or more of a Jenna Jameson?

Anonymous said...

I didn't read this. But just by skimming the other comments I can tell it was pretty good.


Lee Schneider

Unknown said...

Thank you Hose Master for a much needed reason to giggle this foggy morning. ~Cheers!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You're new here. Don't go by the comments. Trust me, the post stinks. Which is why I not only didn't read it, I didn't write it either.

Well, aren't you kind?! Thank you.

And, wow, look at all the new, brave commenters (sorry, Thomas) on HoseMaster. I'm honored. And a bit scared.

Oenophilosopher said...

Dagnabbit Ron! You (unknowingly) stole my Aerator-Vibrator schtick... and made it more concise and poignant. Now when I use it I'll have to attribute it to you...

Well played Sir. Well played.

Also nice to see people taking notice at HMW, well deserved.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Sorry. Didn't mean to steal your schtick, knowingly or not. I loathe aerators, though I don't know why. They just seem so modern and so fake, like they don't belong with wine. I hate going to someone's house and they pour the wine through some stupid aerator into a $50 Riedel glass. I'm thinking, "Weenie." They can't help a poor wine, and they don't improve a great one. Just more stupid wine toys.

Dean Tudor said...

I'm still waiting for your non-review of POWER ENTERTAINING (John Wiley & Sons, 2012, 220 pages, $21.95 US hard covers)by Eddie Osterland, MS, America’s
first Master Sommelier (1973). He has worked at top places in France,
and for the past 25 years, he has been conducting workshops on “power
entertaining” for corporate global businesses. The subtitle to this
book says it all: “secrets to building lasting relationships, hosting
unforgettable events, and closing big deals from America’s 1st Master
Sommelier”. Over to you, Ron...

Now I have to type some robot words...

Thomas said...


I didn't know about Eddie's book. Have you ever seen his presentation? Quite a show.

In knew him when he lived in Manhattan in the early 80s, but I think he lost interest in me, as he stopped answering my emails.

I suppose I ain't much in the power department.


Commenter: n. One who makes or writes comments; a commentator; an annotator.

Either commenter or commentator is the redundant word, n'est pas?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Even I can't not read a book I never heard of by a guy I never heard of. I'm assuming that you were sent a review copy. Sorry. It may be a felony to ship narcoleptic material across the Canadian border. Have him detained.

Anonymous said...

"Planned to spend about five minutes skimming it, digesting it, and then I’d review it"

That may be 5 minutes more than most reviewers spend. . .

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I like commenter. It's easy to type. And typecast. As for Eddie, I'm only interested in America's Last MS, not the first.

I suspect you're right. And that's peripherally the point of my blind book reviews. After all, reviews are about the reviewer, not the reviewed--Stephen Colbert has it right.

Bob said...

Congrats on your excitement at getting 9 (now 10) comments. Not that I'm one to talk as that is more than my poodle gets in a year. Understandable as typing "you suck" quickly becomes redundant and I've found that wine blog commenters have fully embraced the whole brevity thing.

Your concept on reviewing wine books without reading them is sheer brilliance. My standard when asked if I've read a particular wine book is to say "why yes". When they ask what I thought I say the same thing everytime: "it's so refreshing to read new exciting ideas about wine". They always answer "yes! I agree" and change the subject as let's face it they haven't read it either. Saves me $1,000 every year without sacrificing my reputation as a learned wine guy.

I think you're on to something with lighting farts as I truly believe that fart jokes were the first true human pleasure. Something that has been around since the dawn and will never go away much like Harry Reid.

I was disappointed at your take on Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. I had a mind to go out and buy a bunch due to a glowing recommendation from my server at TGI Friday's. I figured he was the senior guy there and knew his stuff because he was wearing more flair than the other servers. Will now be more discerning and accept wine recommendations only at finer eating establishments like Applebees.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My excitement was about the number of NEW commenters. I love my regular cast of characters, but some new blood now and then doesn't hurt.

You failed to mention the name of your blog, Bob. Though perhaps that was intentional. Thanks for the pithy comment. Wish I'd worn my pith helmet.

Commenter Daddy said...

First of all, you have not rated this book. And secondly, you never rate any of the books you don't read so how do we know which ones we will like better when we don't read them?

I like this new captcha thingy. Quite the challenge to decipher the entries. I got it wrong the first time, and was about to ask for the old Google sign-n back again, but I couldn't work it either.

So, not only could I not comment on books you had not read, you could not comment on my comments that you had not read.

What's the name of the guy on first?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,
I'm sorry, did you say something?

I've given up reading entirely. Much like my audience. However, I shan't give up typing.

Who's the name of the player on first. What's the name of the player on second base. Third base? I don't know.

Eric V. Orange said...

What a funny read Hose. Made me think of not growing corn.
I choked on the aerator line, like everyone else.
BTW, aerators work on pinot noir, for everything else, not so good.

All the best.

What's with that fucking captcha??
I'm betting i miss this first one.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, my friend. And you passed the captcha test, apparently. I hate captcha, too, but since HoseMaster got Parkerized, I also got spammed a LOT more, so I had to bring it back. Sorry.

I wonder if any professional wine critics use aerators. Most use vibrators, I'm pretty sure. Now I'm thinking maybe putting a vibrator into a wine might help...

I'm so confused.

voice of reason said...

Great review Ron1

I am using the internet at Las Vegas airport and they have a serious porn-filter on here, so thank you for not using "vibrator" and "Sofia Varga" in the same paragraph... that would've brought security over.

Thanks again for de-mystifying the world of wine critics ad bloggers!

-david fish

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey David,
Hard to imagine the Vegas airport has porn filters on their Internet service. Isn't that sort of like having scales inside every Dunkin' Donuts?

Not sure I'm demystifying anything. Just using Paul's book as an excuse to talk about me.

Thomas said...

I just got an email from a PR firm that wants to send me an aerator to sample.

I declined, but told him I would accept a vibrator, me being in the wine business and all that.

Three captcha tries and final. I just passed on Alfonso's blog after three tries. Maybe I need new decoder glasses.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Thomas,
I think I'm done with the captcha thing. It always looks like they printed the words with a vibrator. It's back to Open ID with no captcha and Charlie will just have to be Charles Olken instead of Vibrator Daddy.

PaulG said...

"...using an aerator before drinking a wine is like using a vibrator before sex—sure, you’ve opened it up and released the bouquet, but what’s the fucking hurry?"

Priceless! And also true.