Monday, November 24, 2014

Perfect Thanksgiving Wines to Match Your Family's Dysfunction

Media Portrayal of Thanksgiving

The great cultural myth of Thanksgiving is upon us. On Thursday, we celebrate that first Thanksgiving when Martha Stewart and Miles Standish invited the local Native Americans over to share in the bounty of America. The two cultures had shared so much. The Native Americans had taught Martha how to live off the land, and how to make contraceptives from beaver pelts, while the Pilgrims had given the Native Americans the great gift of smallpox. To celebrate these gifts, and the opening of the first Native American casino Wampum World, a great feast was prepared by Martha Stewart’s many flunkies. The menu of that original Thanksgiving is lost in the mists of time, but recently the suggested wine pairings, curated by famed wine expert Dildo Sohm, WSET (White Settler Exterminating Tribes) were discovered. However, the Native Americans wisely brought their own wines. Corkage fees had only just been invented at the time, and thus the tribe was charged £25 for the first bottle, and for the next five, Genocide.

Every November the wine press is obligated to recommend wines that go with Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone hates this ritual, especially those given the task of writing about wines that go with Thanksgiving dinner. You can just hear the tedium in their voices. “What matters at Thanksgiving isn’t what you drink,” writes Jon Bonné in the San Francisco Chronicle,”what matters is that you drink what I tell you.” Or how about this nugget from Eric Asimov in the New York Times, “The Pilgrims didn’t know a red from a white, unless you mean skin color.” The advice of the major wine and food writers boils down to exactly the same thing every year. Drink a wine that’s versatile. I have no idea what that means. Stupid wine reviews say, “This wine is versatile at the table.” Which sounds more like a Vegas hooker. And, anyway, it’s lousy advice.

Every family makes just about the same meal on Thanksgiving. There are slight variations, but they’re meaningless. We can’t all drink the same wines, too! I don’t want Beaujolais, I don’t want off-dry German Riesling, I don’t want some obscure Croatian wine made from the rare Squanto grape. (And if you haven’t had a serious bottle of Squanto, well, try one with a good cigar--store Indian.) It just doesn’t matter. I don’t care if the wine matches the same damn food everyone else is eating all over the entire country. Thanksgiving is not the least teeny-tiny bit about wine. Worrying about wine at Thanksgiving is like worrying about what brand of knife to use at the beheading. No need to stick your neck out. Go with the usual. Drink any damned thing.

Thanksgiving is our national holiday that celebrates family dysfunction. Sure, there was a time when Thanksgiving was the day we expressed gratitude for our many blessings by overeating, drinking to excess, and watching large men dish out brain damage on TV. But now we leave out the gratitude, which, truthfully, was disingenuous to begin with. So my suggestion for pairing the perfect wines with your Thanksgiving feast is to match the wine with your family’s dysfunction. This is not only therapeutic, it’s tremendous fun!

The Usual Family Thanksgiving
There are many American families that are constantly redrawn by divorce. The guest list for Thanksgiving often has to be negotiated, and seating arrangements can be treacherous. If this sounds like your family gathering, I’d recommend you serve a wine that’s slightly bitter. Maybe a bold Napa Valley Cabernet from Mount Veeder that only scored 89 points in the latest Wine Advocate. Man, would that be fucking bitter wine. OK, maybe too bitter. But the bitterness of the wine will go nicely with the general bitterness found around a table of divorced people trying to be grateful for something other than rebound sex with someone in a uniform.

Many families spend the day rehashing old sibling rivalries, revisiting childhood grudges and feelings of being loved less by a parent despite being the good child. This is especially poignant if you’re an only child, and indicative of a youth spent inhaling oven cleaner. If you find yourself dreading the Thanksgiving meal sitting across from your bossy older sister, or your completely spoiled baby brother, or the adopted kid who got all the love you had coming even though she was stealing mom blind and blackmailing dad with those sexts, I’d recommend you serve a wine that is, like you, slightly pétillant, maybe one of the Pet Nat wines that are all the rage. Pet Nat is short for Pétillant Naturel, which is French for slightly fizzy wines that might contain pubic hair. The process of making Pet Nat wines almost guarantees that they’ll be unstable, and what better wine for the tensions surrounding your Thanksgiving table?

Tolstoy wrote one of literature’s most famous opening lines, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Spend a little time this holiday thinking about what’s unique about your family’s unhappiness, and then matching the reasons for that unhappiness with an appropriate wine. Does your family constantly squabble about money? Bring a very young Barolo and make a point to remark how tight it is. Maybe you have to spend your day listening to the racist remarks of a family member. What could be better than an insipid Pinot Grigio? “A stupid white for a stupid white,” makes for a lovely opening prayer.

At Thanksgiving, wine is an opportunity. An opportunity to make your point, to participate in the social lubrication that is wine while at the same time expressing your suppressed anger at these people who have made your life a living hell. It doesn’t matter if it pairs with the food. Who the hell cares about that? Your racist uncle? Your asshole brother-in-law? Don’t be stupid. Thanksgiving is the one day each year you can use wine to make a point.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2014

You Get a 100 Points! And You Get a 100 Points! And YOU Get a 100 Points!

“You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car! And YOU get a car! Everybody gets a car!”

The unforgettable opening show of “Oprah!” circa 2004. Oprah Winfrey giving away a car to everyone in her studio audience that day. The screaming materialists out of their minds with greed. Oprah as the Car Fairy. Just as DeBeers convinced everyone in the 1920’s that diamonds proved eternal love, because nothing says love like dead Africans, the car companies have shown us through game shows and talk shows that the jackpot in life is truly, “It’s a brand new car!”

In the wine business, we now have the largesse of Robert Parker.

“You get 100 points! And you get 100 points! And you get 100 points! And YOU get 100 points! Everbody gets 100 points!”

100 points is the Brand New Car! of the wine business. And just like a brand new car, once you drive a 100 point wine off the lot and take it home, it’s instantly worth a lot less. It’s instantly a 96 point wine, for the most part because the jackass that bought it knows almost nothing about wine, which devalues it immediately.

I’m the type of contrarian who thinks there aren’t enough wines awarded 100 points. In just the past month I’ve had sixteen wines I rated 100 points. That’s 16 out of the 20 I tasted. That seems about right to me. Now, many critics make the mistake of thinking that 100 points equates to “perfect.” Idiots. There’s no such thing as a perfect wine. If there were a perfect wine, I’d know about it. A wine that’s rated 100 points isn’t perfect any more than the clown who gave it 100 points is perfect. So I say give out more 100 point scores! 99 is so last century.

Everyone hates the 100 Point Scale. Everyone. We all know it’s stupid, but it has become necessary, so some people feel the need to defend it. Sort of like when George W. Bush was President. From every standpoint, its integrity, accuracy and honesty are indefensible. From a logical standpoint, from a scientific standpoint, from a practical standpoint, it’s nothing more than shorthand. We see it, we know what it means, we know how to translate it, it’s the coin of the realm. It’s easy to understand, which is its only redeeming value. Just like when someone gives you the finger. That’s shorthand, too, and easy to understand. In practice and in essence, the 100 point scale serves to give the wine consuming public the finger. Which, by the way, they richly deserve.

But like a lot of things we know are stupid but love—professional football, “The View,” Jim Carrey, the Academy Awards—the 100 point scale feels like a necessity. The argument in its favor always begins with, “The public loves it.” Like that’s a good argument. The public used to love a good public hanging. Many folks are still nostalgic for a good ol’ country lynchin’—witness Fox News talking about Obama. “The public loves it” is something Michael Vick probably said when he was busted for dog fights. The public “loves” the 100 point scale. Yeah, that’s a valid argument.

I wish there were more 100 point wines. A lot more. Ones I could afford. But not 100 point wines from all the wannabe critics. James Suckling gave 100 points to a piece of goddam luggage, which automatically disqualifies him from serious wine critic consideration, so his 100 point wines don’t count. I carry around my wine glasses in a beat to shit old cardboard box which couldn’t possibly rate higher than 72 on the Suckling/Ferragamo scale. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a brilliant idea to store wine glasses in fine leather—helps to disguise the Brett. Someone tell me with a straight face that Suckling rating the glasses he designed for Lalique, and the Ferragamo briefcase they fit in, 100 points isn’t giving us the fucking finger. Which, by the way, we richly deserve.

I only wish I were still a working sommelier and some guy (it could only be a guy—women only buy Ferragamo shoes) came into the restaurant carrying his wine glasses in a brief case. I’d immediately ask him, “Will your dummy need a chair, Mr. Winchell?” If you have wine glasses in a brief case, you’re an asshole. Period. Hey, have you heard? The people who make the Rabbit™ now have a new product called the Gerbil™. Guess where it helps you store your corkscrew.

And I don’t want any Tim Fish 100 point wines either. Or Burghound. No fish, no hound. Sounds like my love life. Burghound was duped by Dr. Conti, and you want his recommendations? That’s like asking for sex tips from the French diplomat in “M. Butterfly.” Hey, not me, I know boobs when I see ‘em. So did Rudy. Rudy and the French diplomat had the same problem in the end—they had to deal with a Koch.

Well, let’s be honest. I want a lot more 100 point wines from Parker. Not Laube, not Molesworth, not Tanzer, not Donner or Vixen. I’d like it if Parker threw 100 point scores around like wine competitions mint brand new Gold Medals. Anything under $30 and I’m in. I want to have a 100 point every night of the week, and I think it would be good for the wine business. Why is everyone so worried about score inflation? Shut up about it. You should be worried about score deflation. What if we wake up one day and the newest Wine Advocate doesn’t rate a wine over 85? Now what, wine marketing geniuses? Now how do you sell wine? On merit? On actual quality? On your own tasting acumen? Good luck with that.

So please, Bob, if you’re reading (yeah, right), be more generous with those points. Anything 95 and above, round up! (Wineries love Roundup.) As long as we have to live with the 100 point scale, make it a benevolent dictator. Everyone will complain at first, accuse you of having lost your mind and your palate, but they’ll come around. And if you do it, all the other kids will have to do it. The world will be awash in 100 point wines. Sounds like Paradise to me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Master Sommelier Gives a Winery Tour

Hello, everyone, my name is Larry Anosmia and I’ll be your tour guide today around our spectacular estate and winery. Before we get started, I’d like to make a few announcements.

For those of you who aren’t aware, I am a Master Sommelier. Have any of you seen the movie, “Somm?” No? Not surprising. It went straight to pay-per-Vieux. Anyway, a Master Sommelier degree is the highest degree one can attain as a wine expert, except for maybe Master of Wine, or Acker Merrall wine fraud consultant. So I’ll thank you not to question my opinions during today’s tour. You may ask me as many wine questions as you desire, but please be aware that I have been professionally trained to knowingly smirk at asinine questions, so my disdain is not aimed specifically at you.

That said, there are a few questions that I am tired of answering, and so, in an effort to save time during the tour of our spectacular estate and winery, I shall briefly address them now.

Please do not ask me what the “legs” mean. The only thing the “legs” reveal is the stupidity of the person asking about the “legs.”

Please do not ask which is better, a screw cap or a cork. A cork is clearly a superior seal. Think about it. If you open a bottle with a screw cap, you can reseal it with a cork if you want. You can’t remove a cork from a bottle and then reseal it with a twist-top.  It just spins around on top like a Bill Cosby female employee. Screw caps are for women. Men like flashy corkscrews and other gizmos. A screw cap is designed for convenience and removing the possibility of having a corked wine. We men scorn that kind of thinking. It takes the adventure out of wine. It’s really like wearing a condom, which all men hate. It’s way more fun to gamble, and it feels better.

Please do not ask the difference between French oak and American oak. This is advanced wine information, and the differences are far too subtle for you to understand. Though it must be fairly obvious that oak from France surrenders its flavors far more readily.

Please don’t mention the “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy stomps the grapes. Everyone in the wine business is sick of this reference. You can be certain that you are the thousandth fuckwit to mention it. While you’re at it, be the ten thousandth cretin to use the pun “Que Syrah Syrah.” Do you really think you’re the first to come up that? Or that it’s even the least bit amusing? Lucille Ball and Doris Day references? Really? Next time, instead of visiting wine country, try the Hollywood Wax Museum. Or, better yet, the Wine Wax Museum, otherwise known as Wine Spectator Editorial Offices. James Laube looks almost lifelike! And so does his statue.

Our tour today will take about two hours because, as a Master Sommelier, I love to hear myself talk. While we are walking around our spectacular estate and winery, there are a few rules you’ll need to follow.

When walking through our biodynamic, Certified Sensitive© vineyard, please be certain to speak quietly and refer to each vine’s nameplate and call each vine by its proper name. Do not just say, “Hey, Bud” because they’ll all get confused. When walking through the Chardonnay, keep your stupid opinions to yourself. Chardonnay doesn’t like you much either, but is too Certified Sensitive© to say so.

When in the barrel room, do not make bunghole jokes. Violators will be subject to battonage. This can lead to discomfort, or even a ;

Our wines are carefully bottled unfined, unfiltered, and unexpectedly. If you see a cellar worker sneaking up on a barrel, do not shout, “Look out!” Bottling unexpectedly is the way the finest wines in the world are bottled, and the purpose is to shock the wine now so it doesn’t have bottle shock later. It can also reduce sulfur issues as it literally scares the crap out of the wine. All the great Burgundies are made sur lie and sur pris. Which you’d know if you were a Master Sommelier.

Do not ask what that thing that looks like a big radiator does. It’s some other winery’s filter.

When the tasting begins, do not say that you only drink red wines. We do not sanction wine racism. Didn’t your mother teach you not to judge by color? White wines are every bit the equal of red wines, and we don’t need your ugly discriminatory thoughts expressed near our Certified Sensitive© white wines. You’ll give them a complex. That said, it’s OK to hate Pinot Grigio since complex isn’t its thing.

All your valuables must be locked in your car before the tour of our winery begins. This includes young children. Ask yourself why you brought young children to our winery in the first place. If you can’t afford a babysitter, you sure as hell can’t afford our wine.

If you obey all of these simple rules, I’m certain you will enjoy today’s tour. After all, we never forget that we’re in the hospitality business. And, as a Master Sommelier, I’m in the business of never letting you forget I’m a Master Sommelier.

I’m Larry Anosmia MS, and I invented selfies.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Be a Successful Wine Writer

I am often asked what it takes to become a successful wine writer, which is like asking Harold Pinter how to become a successful song writer. He’s dead, you idiot. As it turns out, however, I actually do know what it takes to become a wine writer. And, surprisingly, wine knowledge isn’t one of the qualifications you need worry about. Or the ability to write. Where would wine journalism be if knowledge and talent were required? Imagine a world where wine articles are not only accurate and informative, but compellingly written. I know, I know, it would be a nightmare. You’d actually have to read the first 60 pages of Wine Spectator to get to the scores.

Over at Tim Atkin's award-winning site, I've got some indispensable advice for those of you who want to become a successful wine writer. It would be lovely if you'd leave your thoughtful commentary over at Tim's, or, if you prefer, deliver it here where someone 21 years or older will sign for it.

Tim Atkin, MW