Thursday, December 12, 2013

The New Wine Fairy Tales: The Talking Fish

                                                                   The Talking Fish

Once there was a young boy who lived in an enchanted valley in the far north of a golden state. One day the young boy was walking along the river when he heard a voice. There wasn’t another person around, and the young boy wasn’t prone to hearing voices in his head, not like his cousin who had pierced his body with several hundred toothpicks and claimed to be a magic washboard. The voice was asking for help.

“Help,” the voice said, in a tone that registered as fishlike. Not baritone, but bass.

The young boy walked in the direction of the river, towards the voice, and came upon a fish stuck between some rocks. “You must be a pretty stupid fish,” the young boy said, “to get stuck between rocks.”

“Fuck you,” the fish said. “If you help me out from between these rocks, I’ll give you a magic power.” The young boy was impressed at the fish’s command of the language, and he stepped into the river and kicked the talking fish until it was freed.

“Cod-dammit,” the fish said. “You could have been a little gentler, asshole. But you’ve freed me, as I asked, and so I will grant you a magic power.”

“Do I get to pick my magic power?” the young boy asked. “Because if I do, I pick being able to lick my nuts like a dog does.”

“No, moron,” the talking fish said, “the magic power you now have is that you are a Super Taster!”

“oh.” the young boy said.

“What?!” the fish said, “that’s not good enough for you?”

“Can I taste my nuts?” the downcast young boy inquired.

The talking fish paused for a moment, and then said, “Listen, son, manta man, I think I’m wasting this magic power on a dumbshit like you. But a deal is a deal.” And with that, the talking fish swam away.

Now it happened that the enchanted valley where the young boy lived was the most famous place in the world for wine. The enchanted valley was covered in vineyards, and people came from all over the world to taste the wines. Almost everyone who lived in the enchanted valley was a winemaker. Of course, this stood to reason, because no one can stand to be around a lot of winemakers except another winemaker.

Being a Super Taster was amazing, the young boy thought, but not really very much fun. It was kind of a stupid magic power. He could taste things that nobody else could taste, but that didn’t get him laid. And, really, the young boy thought, what’s the good of having a magic power if it doesn’t get you lots of strange. One of his friends had a magic power. He had twelve inches of tongue. He got lots of strange, and a recording contract. That was a real magic power.

One day the young boy stopped at a nearby winery to talk to a winemaker he knew. The winemaker handed the young boy a glass of his newest release of Cabernet Sauvignon, even though he knew the boy to be dumber than an awards show.

“Wow,” the young boy said, “I’ve never had a wine like this. I can taste blackberries that a bear slobbered on, green olive from a Leccino olive tree, sweet Santa Rosa plum, vanillin from a lightly toasted Francois Freres oak barrel from a tree once hit by lightning, your wife’s lipstick, a whisper of your neighbor’s happy spurt, a #2 lead pencil with an eraser nearly gone, Kenyan coffee slightly overroasted, and cassis. And,” the young boy said, thinking of his friend the talking fish, “on a scale of 100, I’d give it 96.”

The winemaker was floored. He made the young boy write his description on a piece of paper and he took it to the local wine merchant. The wine merchant posted the description in his store, and the winemaker’s wine sold out in one day.

Soon every winemaker wanted the young boy dumber than a roomful of ball bearings to taste their wines and write about them. The young boy started to ask for money for his words. “Oh,” the winemakers said, “we can’t do that. That would make you look like a dishonest young boy. Charge the wine merchant!”

“No,” the wine merchant said, “I can’t pay you for your super taste. Make the people who buy the wine from me pay!” And so he did.

Soon the young boy was tasting hundreds and hundreds of wine every day and writing long and detailed descriptions of what he tasted. He tasted dozens of flavors in every wine. His descriptions baffled the people who buy wine, for no one could taste all the flavors the young boy could taste. And, for the most part, the people who buy wine didn’t even want to taste the weird shit he tasted in the wines. They gave up reading his words. It was the scale they loved anyway. The people who buy wine didn’t even care a little bit about all the descriptions he wrote, about his magic power, they only read the numbers. In the back of his head, the young boy, as he assigned the numbers to the hundreds and hundreds of wines he tasted, could hear his old friend the talking fish speaking his words of wisdom.

“Fuck you.”

The young boy knew he had been right. Super Taster was a stupid magic power. He was wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, famous and powerful in the enchanted valley in the golden state. But now people made fun of his words, and insulted his magic scale. The young boy, now not so young any more, yearned for the days before he’d stumbled upon the talking fish stuck between two rocks, for the days when he could just enjoy the enchanted valley and all the winemakers who lived there. Well, maybe not the winemakers.

One day when the young boy was very old, he was walking near the river again when he heard the voice of his old piscine friend. Could the talking fish still be alive? The young boy, now old, hurried to the river. And, there, waiting for him, was the talking fish.

“Talking fish! How are you? I’m so glad to see you.”

“Who the fuck are you?” the fish said.

“You don’t remember me? Forty years ago I rescued you when you were stuck between two rocks and you gave me the magic power of being a Super Taster.”

“Idiot,” the talking fish explained. “I didn’t give you any magic fucking power. I just said that so you’d help me.”

“You mean I’ve never been a super taster?”

“Hell, no. Man, you’re dumber than a school of anchovies. There’s no such thing as a super taster. Who the hell thought you were a super taster? Douchebags. You’re no different than anybody else.”

Soon after, the young boy died.


The Sommeliere said...

"He had twelve inches of tongue."
That really opens up a Pandora's "box"
in MANY ways!

Thomas said...

Let's wait to hear from Tim Hanni....

Unknown said...

I used to read those stupid descriptions on the backs of bottles until I realized they were all the same and never delivered on what they promised.. now I just pray and hope that it's not total swill... imagine taking back to store.. this didn't deliver on what it said it would.. who says??

Marcia Macomber said...

Fractured Fairy Tale is more like it! Hilarious. If Tim doesn't chime in, I'll ask him tonight at our WWS event. Tim can tell us what vinotype the young man was (and the bass fish!) Bet that fish doesn't fiddle around...

I like the oak in the barrel being once stuck by lightning. Fun.

Charlie Olken said...

Brilliant on so many levels, not the least of which is the way it moves The Hosemaster into yet another realm of comedy.

I am a little worried about Marlene. She may think she is Pandora.

As for Tim Hanni, you have to give him credit. He has parlayed that fairy tale into a big living.

Tim Hanni MW said...

Hi Thomas et al. If he was a true 'supertaster' it primarily indicates a hyper-sensitivity to a group of thiourea compounds - PROP, PTC, etc. Dr. Linda Bartoshuk's great work on the subject (and poor choice of terms like 'supertaster') was in the field of genetics - seeing if they could pinpoint gene responsible for the ability to taste, and at what intensity, thiourea compounds.

Being a super-taster does NOT mean there is any inherent skill or capability as a wine taster, judge or critic.

The young man is a Hypersensitive Vintoype. this does not necessarily make for a great wine taster - in fact the truly Hypersensitive Vintoype often lives in a vivid and confusing sensory cacophony and in extreme cases find it very challenging to enjoy dry wine at all. The people with the most extreme perceptive sensitivity are usually diehard sweet wine drinkers.

His traits? Very frequently has to cut tags out of clothes, probability of mother having severe morning sickness (his DNA is responsible we think) is VERY high (like 95%), typically abhors high alcohol, heavy oak and tannins. Hates Robert Parker, loves Dan Berger. Loves salt. The volume on the TV is too loud. Very likely played individual sports OR compensated by becoming captain or leader if team sports. Incredibly picky about the feel of sheets and/or pillowcases - it is a pain in the ass to go shopping with him.

In this case he got caught up in the descriptive analogies and metaphors of wine that rewired his brain and further removed him from any reality. ADHD and OCD are typical traits of the Sweet and Hypersensitive Vinotype as well - and the fact that he was alone when he came across the fish is consistent with feeling alienated and that 'I don't fit in with others' associated with Hypersensitivity.

Oh - and he didn't EAT the fish because of his sensitivity to smells and textures - which actually means that the people who most prefer delicate white wines eat less seafood (while the tolerant Vintoypes who love big reds wines eat more seafood).

Just sayin'... And see you tonight, Marcia! The fish is a piscatorial non-drinking Vinotype who finds it hard to open a bottle or hold a wine glass.

And hey, Hosemaster. Ya got my book - why don't you read it? Then you can have a blast slaying me in your blog (an honor to be sure). Keep up the fun work!

Tim Hanni MW said...

Charlie - your post came in while I was writing.

I don't think you really understand my fairy tale - but you are still, and always, invited to come have lunch with me to learn what I really do - and don't do! BTW, I am not the 'super-taster' guy. Seriously come join me for a free lunch. You can pay me if required to retain your journalistic purity. At very least I AM a pretty good cook.

Thomas said...

"At very least I AM a pretty good cook."


When you invited me, I assumed you meant a fine and expensive restaurant. Geez, not living in California got me out of that one!

As for your description of "super-taster," which is a poorly chosen term, you confuse me more, since I harbor fair number of the traits you attribute to such people, yet I do not prefer the wines that you claim someone like me should prefer...and I eat a hell of a lot of seafood, too, sometimes while I have a pile of clothing in front of me and a sharp razor at the ready.

Tim Hanni MW said...

Thomas - it is a longer story than a blog response can cover. Kinda why I wrote my book - at the behest of, and with the support of, Harvey Posert, a former Mondavi Exec who is also a Sweet Vintoype. He cannot stand dry wines and spent 45 years as an industry leader.

Again - I am NOT the guy who uses the term super-taster and in fact am trying to eliminate the word, and all of the confusion it caused, from the wine lexicon.

Your preferences are a combination of physical sensory traits and you are a 'highly evolved' Hypersensitive Vinotype. The changes in preferences over time, for the most part, are a neurological process and the changes are due to rewiring the connection between sensations to new experiences, learning and memories.

I do NOT claim to know what wines you like but can provide guidelines for people intimated and overwhelmed with wine information and choices an opportunity to pick a starting point - or validation to stick to their guns if they know what flavors they love.

But I DO know your personality is consistent with your hypersensitivity!! :-) Yeah, lunch is at my house but invitation still stands. BTW - did you ever drink pickle juice as a kid - or even every now and again still?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,
What's fun about writing HoseMaster for me is not knowing what my stupid pieces will trigger as far as topics of conversation. The Talking Fish is a good example.

I've long wanted to write Wine Fairy Tales, but couldn't quite find the method. What got me there was reading Philip Pullman's introduction to his brilliant fairy tale translations in "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm." His introduction is a primer on writing fairy tales. After reading it, I sat down and wrote the first sentence with no idea of where it was going, but at least understanding the structure. The fish appeared, the "magic" power ensued, and the ending simply appeared in my head.

I'm sure I'll write more (I've already got one more in the can). But, first, I have to interview my dog...

You know me, I don't read books before I review them. I haven't read your book yet--thank you for giving it to me, by the way. But I will. And thank you for bringing your MWness to us common taters and chiming in. It's a fascinating subject, really, and has the great satisfaction of putting smart wine people into little cubbyholes where they belong.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marlene Darling,
Sadly, I lack inches in all the wrong departments. But I make up for it with quickness.

Reading back labels is simply for comic relief. I don't think they'd ever have come into being were it not for government warning labels--which are actually the funniest part.

Marcia Love,
Ah, yes, I can hear Edward Everett Horton reading it. Have fun tonight with Tim Hanni. Tell him I can vinotype 120 words per minute.

I was hoping I was one of those wine blogs you declared dead. Here I am borrowing five hundred year old ideas like I'm writing for Pallet Press.

Glad you liked my little fairy tale. It's silly, but I like that the fish is so foulmouthed. It's why I used a piranha as the illustration. You know they swear a lot.

Thomas said...


Pickle juice! I can't remember, but I did like to suck on lemon rinds, and I like to slurp remaining vinegar after the salad is eaten. When I eat chocolate, it's those unsweetened bars used for baking.

Then again, I'm a sucker for a good cheesecake, which can be had in fewer than six places on earth, have been known to search for real lemon ice, in vain, and think key lime pie is too sweet, but ok.

To really know my vinotype, you have to measure my nose, and for that you need some professional rulers.

Tim Hanni MW said...

There is a tendency for the Hypersensitive Vinotypes to have this attraction to sour and salty things. Our son is one - loved sucking on lemons (we are still paying dental bills).

Actually at this point a deeper Vinotyping would require getting insight your head and mapping neurological connects. Not ready for THAT. Suffice to say to are a highly evolved, passionate, emotional (these go along with the hypersensitive territory) Hypersensitive Vinotype with really clear cut preferences. Knowing this about you will mean I can have some pretty spiffy wines here for lunch that I am quite confident you will enjoy! That is the point of all this stuff.

Then I get to really f@%k with your mind in the wine and food arena.

Thomas said...

Send me the plane ticket, or get your ass to NY and I'll handle the lunch.

Warning: many have tried mapping my brain and they all came away with nausea.

I do know what you do during those lunches; you once told me. Of course, what you said could have been a set-up.

Have you mapped HoseMaster's brain? Oh right...forget I asked.

Charlie Olken said...


You know what I think of your theories, as opposed to what I think of you (a valued colleague), but I am intrigued by your pickle juice comment to Mr. P.

My whole family are pickle juice drinkers--except my dear wife who thinks we are slightly nuts.

So, how's this for proof. The other day, the eight-old who loves kosher dills, finished the last couple of pickles in the jar and then picked up the jar and drank the brine. A chip off the old block going back at least four generations.

I am willing, at great risk, to have you tell me what that means.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

The pickle gene is carried through the maternal line, making all of your clan Mother Puckers.

Charlie Olken said...


Certainly the presence of the irrepressible Mr. Hanni will add to the commentary here, but I think the writing itself is so refreshing and zippy, just like a good pickle, that it is also bringing out the best in people and has even caused Marlene to reveal her most secret desires.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Well, it's a smart crowd this week, and I"m glad to have you all here.

But if my writing is pickle-like, it's only because I'm fairly pickled myself.

Tim Hanni MW said...

We have conducted thorough genetic research on the 12-inch-tongue phenomenon. It is called the Gene-Simmons project. We are using Google satellite to map the tongue pictured at the following link...

Hey Charlie - the point of the lunch is also to show you the research behind my 'theories' and that it is not just junk science. Hey, AND free lunch with pickle juice on the side! We can then delve into the Olken Clan of PickleJuiceDrinkers.

Thomas said...

12-inch tongue. Now we're talkin'. Sign me up.

Reminds me of an old girlfriend and a night in Prospect Park...

Long Board said...

As the Flounder of Longboard, I am deeply offended by that picture.. Ron, can't to read the dog interview!

Long Board said...

That was cant WAIT to...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

That's not a picture of a flounder, Oded. Flounders have both eyes on the same side of their face. Since you're a flounder, how the hell do you keep your glasses on?

My dog, it turns out, doesn't grant interviews. She's such a bitch. She does, however, like her Gruner served in a toilet.

Long Board said...

I was talking about the picture of the long tongue... Funny, I love my Gruner the same way, is your dog single?

Bill Klapp said...

Who's Tim Hanni?

Fabio said...

Guys, don't carp on so about super-tasters - just go to the ofishal site and get the facts! :)

Michael Donohue said...

I have to confess I enjoyed, as always, this little parody but was misled by the title. When I read it, I assumed the target of your barbed humor was going to be a Fish, not called Wanda, but Tim! Don't you think this Tim deserves a turn too?

Unknown said...

That was fantastic. You're on a role, Jose.

My dog, by the way, has a twitter account, although I think he is too smart for something so stupid

Unknown said...

"I'm sure I'll write more (I've already got one more in the can). But, first, I have to interview my dog..."

So that would be dogfood in the can? Since I'm sure you're aware that you can tuna guitar but you can't ... (sorry, just bringing down the intelligence level a bit).



Ron Washam, HMW said...

My wife thought the same thing--that it was a Tim Fish parody. It wasn't, not intentionally anyway, but I can see how someone might read it that way. I only make fun of Tim Fish, whom I've never met, because he has a great comedy name. You want to know immediately if he's spawned. Or milted.

I'm not so much on a role as most wine blogs are simply incredibly dull most of the time. I seem like the sharpest weapon among bowling balls.

Isn't there a separate Dog Twitter? Sniffing butts? Right?

It's hard to lower the intelligence level around here, but, hell, YOU DID IT! Nice going. Now the question is, can you tuna casserole?

Samantha Dugan said...


I love you

Anonymous said...

Like Michael, I kept waiting for Tim Fish to make an appearance. He's also stuck between two rocks, Laube and Steiman.

That wasn't a very fairy tale like ending. I was hoping he would have sold out to investors in Singapore.