Monday, August 5, 2013

Molesworth Wins the Pulitzer Prize for Wine Reviews

I was thinking about writing a piece about overblown, fatuous wine reviews, and, serendipitously, found a review of James Molesworth's over at Wine Spectator that was an exemplar of the style. On a whim, I read about six of his reviews--it didn't take any more than that--from the past couple of months, all from the Highly Recommended wines section of the site. Five of them were superbly pretentious, the sixth merely self-parody. So, without the permission of the Columbia School of Journalism, I took the liberty over at Tim Atkin to award Molesworth the first Pulitzer Prize for Wine Reviews. I think you'll find the notes from the Awards Committee to be wonderfully enlightening.

I hope you common taters will feel free to light up Tim Atkin with your thoughts, or leave them here on the back porch as you usually do.

Tim Atkin MW


Steve Lay said...

The reviews of the blogs seem twisted and irrelevent. The relevance of Pulitzer in wine blogs escape me.
Maybe wine drinkers should look at wine blogs that fulfill a nich in their continuum in gaining wine experiences and move on the utlimate goal - making up their own minds as opposd to being lead by the Judas Goats.

Thomas said...

What I would give for the smell of horseshit inside--or outside--a barnyard.

Alas, must settle for bullshit.

Lovely, Ron.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
"Ball sac of a male snow leopard" may just be the most beautiful thing I've ever read. Course I am reading through tears but still. Marvelous Love, that piece is simply marvelous. I love you.

The Sommeliere said...

But have you seen these by JM?

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale 1998 Score: 98
Release Price: $345 Current Auction Price: $295 Country: FranceRegion: Southern RhôneIssue: Jun 15, 2006Designation: Collectibles

This offers an aroma of chocolate-covered prunes stewing on the stove, along with notes of brick dust, black currant preserve, fresh espresso and powdered rust. Powerfully tannic and very heady, with layers of overripe fruit on the finish. Drinks like a Bual Madeira infused with black truffles, yet it somehow manages to maintain a sense of freshness. Amazing, but not for everyone. Drink now through 2025. –JM

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve des Célestins 1998

Score: 98
Release Price: $270Current Auction Price: $301Country: FranceRegion: Southern Rhône Issue: Sep 30, 2007

Still a monster of a wine, with beefy-textured chestnut, roasted fig, bittersweet cocoa, incense and blood sausage flavors that run through the massive finish, which is racy yet densely structured and lets notes of hoisin sauce and charcoal linger. This could stay just like this for quite some time.--1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape retrospective. Drink now through 2032. 100 cases imported-JM

Prunes, powdered rust, brick dust, hoisin, charcoal? Sounds like one of the stomach meds my elderly mother uses!

Don Clemens said...

It's so much fun to sit laughing at my desk, causing my associates to glance nervously in my direction. "Is he going postal?"
Great post, Ron!

voice of reason said...

you continue to amaze...

Please, continue to amaze...

graz said...


Molesworth's musings may be ripe for the pickin' but it takes a master of satire (MS*) to repurpose it into a fine whine. You are hereby also dubbed an (MW*).

*Master of Satire of and
*Master of Whine are bestowed qualifications (not academic degrees)

Unknown said...

Without embellishment, James Molesworth's own reviews prove he is the MFiest MFer around.

I too loved "an aroma as familiar to the average reader as the ball sac of a male snow leopard"

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marlene Darling,
Oh, there were endless Molesworth facile haikus to mock. I began to wonder if he was playing some sort of game with the editors at Wine Spectator to see if they'd stop him at some point.

Everybody else,
Thanks. I actually received an email from Stephen Brooks, a wonderful British wine writer, a week or so ago that pushed me a bit into writing a piece like this, a piece about flagrantly bizarre wine reviews. A day later I happened to see a Molesworth review, and the idea was quickly born.

The piece seems to have taken off in the blogosphere. From my perspective, it's an easy target. I hope I handled it well, hope that it's funny as well as trenchant, but the concept isn't particularly inspired. Just a way of expressing disgust with the kind of silly and insulting wine reviews that pass for journalism these days.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Sorry, it's Stephen Brook. The 's' is silent.

Thomas said...

That would be Tephen Brook then, no?

Unknown said...

Ron, you sure it's not a cold shower we should be taking after reading this?? Remember when I asked if my McScores franchise came with stupid, ludicrous wine descriptions like this? Do you think we can get James in an exclusive deal???

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I don't think he's a free agent until 2014, but then we can make him an offer.

Ludicrous doesn't begin to describe it. If, let's say, I spoke about one of these wines in this manner at a wine competition, competitions that everyone demeans, I'd get my ass kicked. It's self-parody, but the Wine Spectator specializes in that. And then wants respectability. Molesworth is the guy on their team, an A-Rod (polite for what I'm thinking), who makes the whole team look stupid. On that team, no mean feat.

Anonymous said...

I get the impression he bores himself with his tasting notes. How often can a guy just say "it smells like pear, apple, rust, and tea"? He must be throwing in random varieties just to keep himself entertained.

Unknown said...

Great piece, Ron. Lots of comments over on my site too, where the piece first appeared. Would love to see some American readers posting there, too.

Thomas said...


Is there a way to open up entry to the comments department on your blog?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I certainly don't envy anyone who has to churn out 30 reviews a day--though that's the price for traveling the wine world and having your butt kissed. But it's become such an epidemic among wine writers and marketing people to come up with these ridiculous, nonsensical descriptions--it's like steroid use in baseball. Maybe we can get Molesworth banned until the end of 2014.

Your place is the only place the piece appears, my friend. I just provide my lonely little link. I do urge my HoseMaster Peanut Gallery to post on your site, but I think most of them don't have valid passports.

It's not hard to comment on Tim's blog. Even I can do it. I'm sure with your mastery of the Internet, you can figure it out. You're the Master Common Tater of the blogosphere, though Gabe is trying to usurp your crown. Upstart!

Thomas said...


I know how to comment, I just don't want to go through the rigmarole that Discus, whatever that is, requests so that others can read the comment. Besides, I was dropped from the Olympic team because of my bad discus performance.

As for being a Comment Tater: I have far less to say than anyone, which is why I say more than anyone. It's my old blogger's gene at work.

Unknown said...

woohoo! master common tater! that sounds much better than the title i got after mastering debate.

Joe Roberts said...

Tim - last time I checked, I'm an American. And the passport hasn't been revoked (yet! :-)

Thomas said...

Uh Oh! Gabe masterdebates!