Thursday, June 5, 2014

The HoseMaster's Comprehensive Guide to Wine 6


Everyone knows that wine has its own language. When listening to enthusiasts talk about wine, often only a few of the words seem recognizable, like listening to Klingons. Should you try to contribute to the conversation, chances are you will make a jackass of yourself and be submitted to the enthusiasts’ scorn. Always remember, wine lovers dislike the opinions of those who simply drink wine for enjoyment. Your views have no meaning and should be kept to yourself until you’re capable of understanding the language of wine, the importance of wine, and the impossibility of life without wine. Drinking wine simply as an enhancement to your meal, or for personal enjoyment, is for simpleminded assholes, troubled drifters, and Republicans. These are unpleasant categories to be assigned, believe me. Luckily, in this chapter of The HoseMaster’s Comprehensive Guide to Wine™, you’ll learn the proper use of the basic language of wine. Soon, you’ll be elevated from a homeless, troubled, asshole Republican to a wine expert! You’ll be able to drop the “Republican” part.


You can be forgiven for thinking “terroir” was Harry Waugh’s older brother Terry, who certainly now smells of the soil, but you’d be horribly wrong. Terroir is a French word, used by wine connoisseurs, that has no meaning, and is interchangeable with the words “I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.” For example, a wine lover might say, “This Chinon certainly shows fabulous terroir.” Now that you have the insider information, you know that he’s just remarked, “This Chinon certainly shows I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.” Many people will imply that terroir is an expression that takes into consideration where the wine was grown, what soil it was grown in, the microclimate, the regional characteristics of the wine, the techniques used to produce the wine, and even the influence of the winemaker—as though there could be one word to express all that and have it make sense. Yeah, right. Well, there is one word for all that, and that word is bullshit. So, as another example, you read a winery marketing brochure and it reads, “Our winemaker’s goal is to express our vineyard’s unique terroir.” Every lazy winery says this, as though other wineries are trying to express some other vineyard's terroir. This is why most wine marketing people are charter members of the Go Fuck Yourself Club™. An advanced student of wine language understands this sentence to read, “Our bullshit winery script’s goal is to express our vineyard’s I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.” Now you know that when you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about when it comes to a wine, yet you want to sound knowledgeable and educated about said wine, simply adopt your faux French accent and say confidently, “Wow, smell that terroir!” If someone asks you to define “terroir,” do what wine experts do, look at them disdainfully, shake your head, and walk away.


When you hear a wine enthusiast say that a particular wine is “Burgundian,” usually a Pinot Noir, what he means is that he is completely unfamiliar with Burgundy, and, thus, hasn’t the slightest inkling what Pinot Noir is all about, or what the fucking hell he’s talking about. Saying a Pinot Noir from somewhere other than Burgundy is “Burgundian” is like describing a urinal cake as a piece of “pee hockey equipment.” You’re aiming at the wrong target. What the wine lover means to say is that the Pinot Noir he’s encountered seems mysteriously underripe, infected with a barnyard aroma, and yet costs a lot of money, and he associates all of those things with Burgundy. So he’s an idiot, but the best way to communicate with him is to say, “Didn’t I meet you at the ‘In Pursuit of Balance’ tasting?”


You will often be confronted with a wine expert who says, “This wine needs food.” Essentially, this is the equivalent of saying, “This shoe probably needs another one to be useful.” You’ll find as you learn the language of wine that the best response to what a wine connoisseur says is often a simple, “Duh.”  The statement, “This wine needs food,” begs the question, are there wines that are better without food? The answer is, Yes, any wine is when you just want to get shitfaced for fun. When a wine lover remarks that a wine is definitely a “food wine,” what that means is he’s trying to convince you that the crappy wine of his you just put in your mouth will taste better with the proper food, even though you and he both know it won’t. It’s a very stupid thing to say about a wine, and often expressed out of desperation for something seemingly intelligent to say about a wine, much like tasting a new vintage of a wine and declaring, “This wine tastes young.” Yeah, Sherlock, and it also needs food and has great terroir.


There is no agreed upon definition of Natural Wine, just as there is no agreed upon definition of Normal Sex. Once upon a time, Normal Sex was defined as sex between one man and one woman. That is to say, boring. Now Normal Sex might include several people, people of all three sexes, farm animals, and/or sock puppets. Throw anything in there and it’s now considered Normal Sex by somebody. It’s very nonjudgmental. Natural Wine is the opposite. Wine used to be all inclusive. Wine, as every beginner and non-wine-speaking person knew, was simply ripe grape juice fermented by yeast under the control of man in order to create a complex alcoholic beverage to grace the dinner table and make our wretched lives a bit better. The use of the phrase “Natural Wine” is very judgmental and non-inclusive, and is used to imply superiority to other wines, and more importantly, the superiority of the palates and morals of those who promote them. A wine is considered “Natural” when it has been exposed to as little human intervention as possible. “Natural Wine,” then, is wine’s answer to the Rwandan genocide or Ukraine, clear examples of how very little intervention leads to the desired results.


Robin said...

I think I love you

Marcia Macomber said...

I love how you think it's going to go one way and then ends with a zinger another way: "...the best way to communicate with him is to say, “Didn’t I meet you at the ‘In Pursuit of Balance’ tasting?”

Just like the line about Ukraine et al. "Natural Wine" -- really natural wine -- is vinegar because there was NO intervention in the process of fermentation... Loved it!

The Sommeliere said...

"Now Normal Sex might include several people, people of all three sexes, farm animals, and/or sock puppets."

I am really concerned about the abnormal inclusion of sock puppets...

Unknown said...

Sock puppets cross the line. Sock monkeys, on the other hand, are hipster.

Nigel said...

Great definition of wine under "Natural Wine."

Joseph Comfort said...

I heard three of these yesterday at a tasting - wish I had read this first, I might have responded more simply with that "Duh".

Thanks HMW!!

Nigel said...

I've no idea why my first comment was posted twice, by the way. I once went to a Oenological Society gathering (binge wine drinking evening)and the subject was Pinot Noir and Terroir. It was invaluable. We were taught that if a wine might taste like rotting vegetables it is simply part of the Terroir!

David Larsen said...

Extremely funny post. Too many good lines to list. Thanks for the laughter!

Jack Edwards said...

You are the man once again!

Charlie Olken said...

Another classic because it is laugh out loud funny and true at the same time.

This is high dudgeon of the first degree.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Aw, that's sweet. Thank you. Trust me, it won't last

Marcia Love,
Surprise, in one form or another, is the very essence of comedy. Also, how we often unthinkingly use language. But it's mostly about making people laugh.

Marlene Darling
Where the hell have you been? I missed you. I have a sock puppet named in your honor.

Sock monkeys are hipster? I thought they were male enhancement devices. Damn.

You can read a full year of Wine Spectator and say, "Duh," at the end of every article and it will be an accurate summary. Try it. Very entertaining.

Sounds about right. For every wine expert who uses "terroir" wisely, there are fifty pretenders. It's the Elvis of wine words. Elvis in the fat years.

David, Jack, and Charlie,
Thanks. I hate these sorts of pieces, but they sure are popular. Glad folks laughed.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

I can't wait to read this but, well I am currently expected to meet a gimp and the Erma Bombeck of Italian wine blogging for my birthday dinner. Much as I love me some HoseMaster, gimp and Erma....I'm sure you understand.
Maybe I'll get the chance to read this when I put the others away for the night.
I love you so!!

Thomas said...


Jessica Senning said...

Effective narrative, but you are rather undermining the newly initiated into the wide and (I do agree) sometimes ludicrous world of wine. What other language do they have available to speak and make coherence of this liquid? What conclusions can the novice make other than food verses wine,general drinkability and and a newly formed notion of terroir?

Anonymous said...

Thank you oh great Hoser. Great bulshit bashing.

Charlie Olken said...


It seems a bit odd to me that you would "hate" THIS piece since it contains so much pointed satire and hoists the foibles of the "holier than thou" crowd on their own petard.

It is not just a rant against rampant stupidity, it is a clear and remarkable use of humor to do it.

It may seem like easy pickings, and may not rise to the level of your more involved pieces, but satire it is, and making us laugh at the nonsense in our business is why we all love coming here.

The Sommeliere said...

I am truly honored to have a sock puppet named in my honor!

Family problems, now called "issues" have kept me off the 'net.

But I still LOOOOOOOVEEE you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I think it's very safe to say that the newly initiated into wine are not readers of HoseMaster of Wine™, so I doubt I am much of a corrupting, or confusing, influence. That's silly on the face of it.

I write satire, not recycled and emptyheaded books for wine beginners, of which this stupid series is a lampoon. I use a Voice, and the HoseMaster is just a Voice, that tries to stir up and ridicule the complacent acceptance of very old and thoughtlessly parroted bits of wine "wisdom" in an attempt to point out all the blowhards and pretenders that pass as wine writers these days.

Satire, Jessica, is precisely about undermining. Without it, the windbags, the pretenders, and the witless win.

I think I hate it on a technical level, not on a laugh level. It generated a LOT of discussion on Twitter about my lack of taste and talent, which pleased me. Though I had lots of defenders as well. What's interesting about that is I viewed this piece as a throwaway piece, a piece that would pass unnoticed. Perhaps the strangest thing about writing HoseMaster has been my complete inability to foresee what pieces will "take off." I'm always wrong. But always amazed.

Marlene Darling,
Sorry for the daunting issues of your life. Always glad to see you here. I looooooove you too.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Sorry to come so late to this here party, I was busy tasting food wines in Sacramento. I'm with Sir Charles here, this was laugh out loud funny Love, and I am debating sending your "Burgundian" piece to a certain "wine writer" (cough Meg Houston Maker cough) that used, and defended using the term "Burgundian Grenache". You are correct handsome, using the term when you haven't a clue what it means is akin to washing your clothes in a cement pond. This My Dear Intergnats Groom, was worth waiting for! I love you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
If it made you laugh then I'm happy. I cringed when I reread it, but that's a normal reaction from me to my work.

As for "Burgundian," there are a lot of ways for wine writers/typists to be lazy. And the surest way to detect that laziness, and also simple ignorance, is their use of high-falutin' words that sound smart, but are actually misleading, and are the refuge of people who have very little original to say. Among those words are the ones I wrote about here. Their use most often reflects a writer's profound lack of imagination and vocabulary. Those are writers one wants to avoid.

You are a writer to seek. I love you!

Vin de Terre said...

Beg pardon, must question your use of "beg the question". Can't help myself. Always gotta pick nits, which is not the same as voting.

Unknown said...

I'm gonna nominate this one for a "Best of Hosemaster" 2019. And since nobody mentioned it, I really loved the line about saying a wine needs food is like saying one shoe needs the other. That was some seriously Burgundian comedy.

Samantha Dugan said...

And once again you domestic cats show you know NOTHING about Burgundy. They aren't funny, like ever. Get it together man.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

There are some seriously stupid things you hear often in the wine business, from sales people and marketing folks, and one of them is, "This wine will be better with food." When I worked as a sommelier, that one line often disqualified a wine for me, just out of spite. Also if the salesperson was only wearing one shoe.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
You're right, Burgundians aren't funny. Clos', but no cigar.

Unknown said...

That joke was terroirable