Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Wine Writer Classification of 2013

It’s bound to stir up some controversy, and the results will be fiercely contested, but I’m rather pleased with the new Wine Writer Classification of 2013. Now wine consumers have a guide to the voices in the wine writing world that have meaning, and those that are basically bus stop ads. It has taken several years for the classification to become final, and a lot of bickering and insider politicking went on behind the scenes, but I think the committee, overall, did a wonderful job. From the First Growths down to the Fifths, wine writers have been assigned their level, and the wine buying public is better off for knowing it. It’s a nice bit of irony that the men and women who have made their living assigning imaginary values to wine now find themselves in a similar situation. A wine might be forever branded an “89,” but now, at least, the critic finds himself forever a Fifth Growth Writer. Admit it, it just feels right.

You may notice a few wine writers who were omitted. Perhaps because they lack any significant influence. Or perhaps because they’re just unpleasant people, pushy and demanding to a degree directly inverse to their actual clout. The committee was overwhelmed with pleas from wineries and winemakers to add a sixth level, Cancerous Growth, but this became unworkable when every single wine writer’s name was nominated.

The committee, whose work was done in anonymity for their own safety after repeated threats from Natalie MacLean to “cut their balls off and feed them to Guy Fieri in a nice tomato sauce with a whisper of oregano” if she wasn’t at least a Second Growth Wine Writer, spent long hours assessing the scope and influence of the greatest living wine writers. When they finished with those two, they slapped together the rest. In the time it took for the final classification to be decided, a few of the writers had died. Death does increase popularity, of course, and the committee urged wine writers unhappy with their ranking to strongly consider it.

You may disagree with the Wine Writer Classification of 2013, but it is done. The classification will be revisited in ten years, at which time the committee hopes the writers will have finally found gainful employment in a field at which they actually excel. At that time they will also establish a Veterans Committee to acknowledge wine writers they may have overlooked, or, like Oz Clarke, they were unable to translate into English.

Wine writing is important to the popularity of wine. The committee expressed its sincere wish that it might, one day, also be important to its enjoyment. Wine writing has its roots in man’s love for wine, and his inability to shut up about it. The Wine Writer Classification of 2013 celebrates those who educate and enlighten us at the expense of entertaining us.

Each category, or Growth, represents a different level of influence, talent and longevity. A First Growth wine writer is one whose every word can move wine markets, cause buying frenzies, or ruin family businesses forever. Think Bernie Madoff, just hasn’t been caught yet.

A Second Growth wine writer will have valuable name recognition and a discerning palate, like Monica Lewinsky. Not as influential as a First Growth, this causes a distinctive bitterness to the tone of their work.

A Third Growth wine writer is particularly knowledgeable but has the communication skills of Koko the talking gorilla. They often simply point at kitties.

A Fourth Growth wine writer hasn’t had an original idea since he pulled the chair out from under Harry Waugh at a Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin meeting and said, “Ever mistake the floor for a chair, Harry?” Irrepressible Harry dutifully replied, “Not since lunch, asshole.”

A Fifth Growth wine writer is utterly convinced he is a First Growth because his blog gets over four hundred hits a week, and two wineries sent him free wine that had been refused by their wine club members and was sitting in a UPS warehouse for three months. Wine writers who also play in bands are automatically Fifth Growth because almost everyone hates them.

Here then is the Wine Writer Classification of 2013, the undisputed list of who’s who in the wine writing world. Next update: 2023

First Growth

Robert M. Parker, Jr.

Second Growth

Jancis Robinson, MW

Third Growth

James Laube

Fourth Growth

Hugh Johnson

Fifth Growth

Everybody else…

Now get over it.


Samantha Dugan said...

You're correct, it does feel right! I've printed this post out and have glued it to my laptop, a constant reminder and source of inspiration...maybe someday I too can be a Third Growth. Thank you and I love you!

Thomas said...

This post is off base: metastatic cancer is expressed in stages, not in growths.

Unknown said...

Thomas...there is only 4 stages of cancer & are of increasing strength, but otherwise your point has some validity

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I started actually listing as many wine writers as I could think of under the Growths, but that got tedious in a hurry. I'm guessing you wouldn't want to be among them. And you know you're always a First Growth to me.

I love you, too!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, now I'm suddenly WebMD. How do you manage being both Grammar Police and Dr. Oz?

I know you're correct, sir. It's comedy, it's stupid, and as for stages, I'm catching the next one out of town.

Don't encourage him. I'm the one who needs help.

Dean Tudor said...

As the Canadian representative to your 2013 Wine Writer Classification Panel, I failed to lobby hard enough to get the names of certain Canadian writers up to at least the Fourth Growth of the scale.

For that, I have to apologize to my Canadian colleagues.

As to the whole procedure, I say: eh, you! See you in 2023...

Charlie Olken said...

aaack pffft !!!

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Thomas said...

Dr. Oz? Is he the wine writer whose prescriptions put you to sleep?

More important: is that how gesundheit is spelled?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Well, your panel did a helluva job. I'm sure there are numerous Canadian wine writers who deserve to be classified. There's, uh, yeah, and that guy in Toronto, and isn't there one in Vancouver? Shame they were overlooked.

As was I.

Dr. Oz used to be much bigger when he was Dr. Lb. And, yes, that is how gesundheit is spelled. But not how it's pronounced.

BobFoster said...

Parker praises you, you praise Parker. Isn't this a form of incest?

Unknown said...

Oh Ron you don't like guys in bands??? hehe .. I once wrote a column about how guys with their acoustic guitars wreck your party.. totally uninvited and unasked for.. more obnoxious than a wine snob/boor... wouldn't it be sweet justice if these hacks got sent to hell or purgatory where they could get a taste of their own medicine, filled with hacks all plonking away on their guitars, singing their dreadful songs, sounding like a pack of drowning dogs...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Of course it is, my friend, it's called the wine business.

Samantha Dugan said...

Yeah, you should see what I get when I stroke/praise him!

Samantha Dugan said...

Okay yeah, that was just gross. Sorry guys.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

That would be "pack of drowning Poodles..."

I always laugh when I see some poor, lonely, needy wine blogger post pictures of himself playing in some sad band, as though the fact that he can mangle music makes him more of an authority on wine, or that we give a crap. It's almost as annoying as rock stars who fancy themselves wine experts, but not quite.

Thanks for chiming in. And it's always guys with guitars, isn't it, same as on wine blogs, never women. We are a sad sex.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
A little too quick on the trigger? I know the feeling.

voice of reason said...

"Death... wine writers unhappy with their ranking to strongly consider it."




Ron Washam, HMW said...

Ah, I kid my friends the wine writers. Though I do think a classification of them would be really interesting, if not downright dangerous. Aside from Parkenstein, who are the other First Growths? And how many think they belong in the First Growths? They love to rank stuff, wouldn't it be fun for winery owners to turn the tables?

My other First Growths were Jancis Robinson, Eric Asimov, Gerald Asher (retired, basically) and Chronic Negress.

Bill Klapp said...

Ron, my man, you just died with this piece. Strong setup, then nada. I am weeping openly. It is the first time...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I couldn't agree more.

My original intention was to do an actual ranking of wine writers. I've had this idea for months, and wrestled with it constantly. When I sat down to write it yesterday (would it excuse me to let you know I have the worst damned flu I've ever had in my life?) and got to the rankings, the task was daunting. I started listing wine writers under each Growth, and soon found that there were an amazing amount of them, most of them with little influence, as is true in most fields of criticism. I just got discouraged. I wasn't worried about offending any of them, I just couldn't find a real way to make the list funny. There are times you write yourself into a corner, and this was one of them for me. But I wanted the damned subject off my plate. And so it is.

Sorry to disappoint. You get what you pay for.

Bill Klapp said...

I gladly accept any and all excuses and explanations, Ron. You burned only the tiniest amount of your credit in heaven with this one. Even Homer nods. I am choosing to believe that Neal Martin ghost-wrote the piece because you had the flu...

Suk Chun Kwak said...

Dear Hosaemaster,

Why would you want to come back in ten years to revisit the rankings? I thought the whole point of the classifications is that they're set in stone so that no amount of underperformance will result in demotion, just as no amount of improvement/lobbying/bribe can get you on it if you're not there already. I think you can just leave it as it is, and anyone who still wants a spot can buy out the names, as the Bordelais do. Besides, I don't think you'll have to wait too long before some of the top growths stop functioning, and you might be able to get a bargain then.

Anonymous said...

I asked Jancis for her thoughts. Her response was "First, I cannot be. Second, I do not deign to be. Jancis I am."

I didn't realize Hugh had that little respect for Harry Waugh. Speaking of Harry and Johnson....

PaulG said...

Sir - I fail to see the difference between a wine critic who fancies himself a songwriter, and a blogger who fancies himself a comedian! Pistols at dawn?

Samantha Dugan said...

I'm betting Paul has him a Gee-tar.....

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Suk Chun Kwak,
Man, that's fun to type.

You have a point. But it would be something to look forward to every ten years, screwing with wine writers. And, as creator of the classification system, I think you're crazy if you think bribery won't work to get promoted.

Perfect! Great Jancis line.

Oh, all the Brits use to regularly pull Harry's chair out from under him. It's just like they wait until Clive Coates is passed out drunk and then they paint on that ludicrous beard.

Yes, you and pistols at Dawn, I'll shoot Tony Orlando!

I kept running into wine bloggers, all men, who also played music, and it started to make me laugh. You, 1WineDoody, Jeremy Parzen... What, it's not enough to drive the babes crazy with wine knowledge? However, I am guessing that there are probably a bunch of male music bloggers who brag about their wine cellars.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
He do!

Eric V. Orange said...

Paul may have a gee-tar, but that was a funny comment.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

It was a funny comment. For a guy who plays guitar, anyway.