Monday, February 24, 2014

The HoseMaster's Comprehensive Guide to Wine 2

Why waste your money on all of those Introductory Wine Guides written for Complete Idiots, Dummies, the Addlepated, the Thunderstruck and the WSET candidate when you have the HoseMaster's Comprehensive Guide to Wine? Here's Part Two. You're welcome.


You often hear the phrase, “Wine is made in the vineyard.” Really? Then why’d you build a fucking winery? I suppose you make T-Bone steaks in the pasture. There are endless little aphorisms about wine that you’ll have to learn to ignore. Another one: “Wine is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy.” God does not want us to be happy. That’s not what wine proves. Wine is proof that God loves us, and hates Mormons. Man, who makes up these stupid sayings?

Wine is made from grapes, and only grapes. Yes, there is a category called “Fruit Wines.” Don’t be fooled. Fruit wines are not wine. They’re basically spiked juice boxes. And they’re perfect for children! Some people also make wines from vegetables, like rhubarb. These are not wines. Fermenting vegetable juice to make wine is like grinding rose hips to make coffee. Just plain stupid. Grinding hips, everyone knows, is to make lap dances. Lap dances, in fact, are proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy.

After the grapes are harvested (a fancy word for “picked”), they are brought to the winery where they are crushed. Many are crushed because they’ve been brought to such a shitty winery. Grapes have dreams, too. Once the grapes have been crushed, tiny little organisms go to work on them. These are called “cellar rats.” Yeast is also present, and the yeast go to work converting the sugar in the grape juice to alcohol. Yeast eat all the sugar until they die, much like we do to inner city children. Now the grape juice is officially wine! How easy is that? It begs the question, why do we put winemakers on pedestals? I guess because we’re too polite to say no when they ask us to.

Many wines are then placed in vessels to age. Most of the vessels are made of wood, like they were in the days of Columbus. Well, wood floats--all you need is a couple scoops of ice cream. And wood also breathes, though its breathing is rather labored because the barrels are smoky. Most of the barrels are made from French oak. The oak from France is preferable to, say, American oak because when it comes to nuance and flavor, as with everything else, France surrenders easily. France has many large oak forests that are devoted to wine barrel production, the most famous of which are Limousin, Nevers, Alliers, and, the most popular for winemaking these days, Chips. Chips is located near a nuclear power plant, the famous Fission Chips.

In barrel, red wines go through a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation, or ML, for short. During malolactic fermentation, bacteria convert malic acid to Euros, charging a small fee. This is why ML adds richness to wine. In recent times, ML was also introduced to some white wines, most notably Chardonnay, in order to make it more expensive. The result of ML is that the white wines often taste “buttery,” or “creamy,” or “overpriced.”

Some wines go through a third fermentation in the bottle, and are referred to as Wine-of-the-Month Club wines.

Corks are made from the bark of an oak tree, Quercus suber. No one knows who first discovered the properties of cork, but it’s believed to be a farmer who observed dead beavers floating.

Corks that aren’t sterilized properly can cause a wine to have off-notes. The same is true for members of the Vienna Boys Choir.



There are thousands of varieties of grapes from the species Vitis vinifera that are used to make wine. The exact number is not known. Only about eight really matter. This has many parallels with wine blogs. Yours isn’t one that does.

Vitis vinifera is native to the Mediterranean region. Many of the finest wines in the world come from the Mediterranean crus, though I had some good ones on an Alaskan crus once. Vitis vinifera is now cultivated worldwide, and also in New Zealand. There are about 60 species of Vitis, but it is vinifera that makes the best and most important wines. Wines made from other grape species will get you equally drunk, but, really, is it worth it? Have you had those wines?

These don’t make the best wines, and are usually found only in Native American casinos.

The botanical cycle of a wine grape is fairly simple. The vines are dormant all winter, and spend most of their time in Florida. When spring arrives, the vines awaken and begin to bud. The older and smarter vines bud a bit later, which is helpful in avoiding frost. This is why you’ll often see vineyard workers enjoying the frosty bud wiser.

Next, the vines will flower. Flowers are self-pollinating, like Lesbian couples. When the flowers pollinate they form the new grapes. This time of the grape’s cycle is called “set.” You want a good set. This is one of life’s truisms. Once the grapes have set they begin the job of accumulating sugar and forming clusters. Before long, the grapes turn color. The grapes have reached veraison. Depending on how the grapes are trellised, it could be regular veraison, or, if head-pruned, it could be veraison wireless.

Once the grapes have then reached the winemaker’s desired level of maturity and ripeness, they are harvested. Great attention is paid to the level of sugar the grapes have accumulated, which is measured in degrees Brix. Brix measures the sugar content of a solution. The origins of degrees Brix is shrouded in some mystery, but most experts believe it was conceived by the great French chemist, Dr. Francois Shitta.


Charlie Olken said...

Ah, an old-fashioned laugh fest. So many good lines. Love the crushed that they went to such a shitty winery line.

Thought you might be going for Penelope Cruz but you wound up in Alaska instead.

Which reminds me of a joke we used to tell as kids, "Is that Cruz Penelope?". Id a ho, al ask a". Sorry.

Steve Lay said...

You pretty much explained the situation. Sidebar. I went to Dry Creek Passport a couple of years ago and did notice a beam of sunlight settling on the winemaker (kind of an aura setting in that would rival Billy Graham) holding court with a group of SFO oneophiles who were held spell bound. A guy standing next to me, looked rather dignified with elbow patches on the sleeves of his sport coat said, "what a bunch of crap, you either like the squeezings or you don't. If you can read instruction anybody can make wine. Hell you can buy it in kits."
A long diatribe here just to say I agree with your irreverent assessment of winemakers.

Stillman Brown said...

Elbow patches on sleeves? Perhaps a blogger.
Almost any food critic could make a better than decent meal in an hour or two. Give almost any wine critic a year or two to make a wine, and what happens? Your toenail polish melts.

renzo said...

More laugh lines per column inch than...

Vaynerchuk has goofy descriptives...

Two buck chuck has cheapskate lovers...

Wineblogs that matter (although, that's not saying much, is it?)

What this took was good material and execution. Sorta like winemaking. Except a lot harder. Also, without the benefit of alcohol. Bravo, Ron.

Thomas said...

Henny the HoseMaster, eh!

Unknown said...

That was really funny, and showed a surprising amount of knowledge about how wine is actually made. You'd have to be a real wine dork to get the verasion wireless joke.

Stillman Brown said...

Surprising winemaking knowledge for a somm, you mean? I suspect he's tripped over more hoses than his own.
That sounded like a line from Betamax-only gay porn.

Unknown said...

Actually, I meant surprising knowledge from a blogger, although it could also apply to a somm. Most bloggers know about as much about winemaking as the guy who thinks you can make it with a kit

Marcia Macomber said...

Damn! Thomas beat me again. Henny the Hosemaster is dead on. I was also thinking perhaps a slight homage to Side Caesar. Lots of great rimshot material in today's post.

...I knew the veraison wireless line was coming inevitably. It's like playing billiards except the Hosemaster keeps pocketing the balls, one setup after another. And the rest of us just get to stand there, cue in hand, never getting a shot off, watching the master line one shot up after another after another...

nickh said...

Very good, love the terseness and (deceptive) simplicity. And I laughed.You can easily fake a 'hmm most interesting' expression but you can't fake a laugh. That's why most bad writers avoid writing comedy.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,

I don't have a comic role model in mind for this Comprehensive Guide, but, if anyone, I hear Professor Irwin Corey, one of the underrated comics of his era. Henny Youngman? Nah, not so much.

The entire tone of these pieces is about making fun of those Beginner Wine Books that flood the market--the ones for Dummies, Idiots and Bloggers. I'm as far from a winemaker as most winemakers are from being funny, and make no claims otherwise. This stuff is aimed solely at stupid laughter, easy to read and, hopefully, laugh at, but hard to write and be original.

I only barely make that grade, if at all. But, thanks, everyone, for all the kind words.

PS--My hard drive crashed today. My wife would say it did that years ago. But I have on dead computer. So it goes.

Unknown said...

As great as ever!

Thomas said...

Yeah, Ron, but Henny the HoseMaster scans better than Irwin the HoseMaster.

But yes, Irwin certainly was a master.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thank you. Though "as great as ever" could be taken a few ways, I'll take it as high praise.

I'm thinking I might be Professor Irwin Coreyvin. Extracting jokes with actually breaking the seal.

Thomas said...


...and the jokes would never die.

voice of reason said...

this is among your highest LPP (Laughs Per Paragraph) works ever!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thank you. This kind of piece is meant to be ridiculous and silly. It's a studied kind of randomness, if that makes sense. No great satirical point to it, just soliciting groans, laughs and snorts. Thanks for being a common tater!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
This is why I love reading you babe, you hep me wit my learnin. Well that and shit like, "Next, the vines will flower. Flowers are self-pollinating, like Lesbian couples" which made me laugh so hard I had to change my liquid liner, and those are the overnights! You kill me handsome. I love you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
It fascinates me that the pieces I write that are packed with simple jokes, one after the other, are far more popular than any satire I write. It says something like people are here to laugh, not think. That doesn't bother me, it simply interests me. For the most part, I wonder why they read blogs that don't make them laugh OR think.

But when I make you laugh that hard, well, that makes much of this worth it. There's joy in spreading laughter, very little joy in spreading manure.

I love you!

Randy Caparoso: said...

Ron, I don't want to say anything that will make your head swell any bigger; but truly, thanks for bringing us wine professionals back down to earth, rubbing our faces in the dirt, stomping our butts and generally making us feel like shit for wanting to romanticize wine to make the experience better for these poor slob/consumers... big #$@!&*# thx...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'm the last guy in the world to have a swollen head. As I've said many times, comedy writers are, for the most part, filled with self-loathing.

Why does the wine writing business sell the "romance" of wine? In large part, because it glorifies the wine writer. Makes him a part of the romance, while the poor novice is on the outside looking in, hoping to get just a taste of that romance. I find it disingenuous, and annoying. Arguing minutiae about terroir or authenticity or naturalness when little of that matters.

So I have fun with it. Try to spoil the fake romance and bring some joy and laughter to wine. It's only wine. It's only wine. Really, truly, it's only wine.

Nice to see you here once in a while, Randy. Don't be so aloof, my friend, become a common tater!