Monday, September 26, 2016

Donald Trump, Your New Emperor of Wine, Explains His Rating System

I’m doing a fantastic job as the new Emperor of Wine. Fantastic. The wine business has never been more honest, folks. It’s not exactly a secret that wine reviewing is completely corrupt. I mean, there are publications giving scores to wine that don’t accept advertising! I’m not kidding. Not a single advertisement. Not for wine, not for cars, not for jewelry. Nothing. That’s not the America we want to live in. You can’t trust a magazine that doesn’t take advertising. I think that’s obvious. Ask yourself, where does a publication that doesn’t accept advertising get its money? Not from subscriptions, that’s crazy. You can’t make money from subscriptions. There’s no tax breaks for subscriptions, and that’s where the money is, believe me. I’ll tell you where they get the money, folks. The Saudis.

Well, before the days of Trump are done this November, I thought I'd run this bit into the ground. Only this time the rest of the piece is over at the Wine Journal, part of the Wine Advocate's new free content site. Hey, they pay me, which is more than you can say. I won a damn writing award! Time to sell out!

Comments aren't allowed there, they probably can't afford a fulltime moderator to keep out the haters, so return here, if is suits you, to do your common tatering. I appreciate it. Now go!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Wine Critics in Hell Act 4

Act One is here   
Act Two is here   
Act Three is here

Our four dead wine critics, Parker, Laube, Suckling and Kramer, are listlessly hanging around in Hell, which appears to be a natural wine bar in Lodi. Alice Feiring is sitting at the bar deep in conversation with Laube, who is visibly inebriated, while she sips from a bottomless glass of natural rosé. There is a Stranger sitting alone in the corner who listens intently to everyone’s conversations. Everyone appears to be waiting for someone.

Laube: (drunkenly) I don’t know what I’m doing here with these idiots, Alice. I’m a lot more influential than any of them. I ran California! If I said a wine was 95 points, then, goddamit, it was going to get somewhere around 95 points. Give or take. I mean, there were other factors, weren’t there, Alice? I’m not to blame for that. There’s always other factors…(he drifts off).

Feiring: (consoling him) Oh, Jimmy, you did your best. And isn’t it better to be here in this sort of Hell than the one of your own making? I mean, Honey, you stayed at Wine Spectator for all those years. You had the courage to stay, not go out and try to make something of yourself like other wine critics. You were dependable, like a morning bowel movement. You had no aspirations to be better! I admire that. Get a big paycheck and just phone it in? Why, that’s inspiring! You gave the best years of your life to that magazine, and what do you have to show for it? Why, you’re a household name, like washrag, or doormat!

Laube: And I wrote a book! Don’t forget that. I wrote a goddam wine book.

Feiring: Why, yes, yes, you did, Jimmy. (a long pause) When was that?

Laube: I don’t remember. Maybe 1989? But it was a helluva book. It was about Cabernet.

Feiring: It sounds fascinating. Did it have numbers, Jimmy? Say some numbers to me, Jimmy. I love when you say numbers to me in that whiskey-laden voice of yours. It’s sexy. Tell me, Honey, what sort of a number would you give me?

Parker: One for the nearest shrink would be good.

Laube: (looking Feiring over) I’d have to taste you first.

(Feiring slaps him. His moustache flies across the bar. Parker rushes over and grabs Feiring’s wrist, which is poised to strike again. The bartender hands Laube his moustache back, which is now covered in peanut shells. Laube puts it in his glass of wine, wrings it out in the glass, and puts it back on his face. He then sips the wine, and his eyebrows show approval.) 

Parker: Leave him alone, Feiring. What’s he ever done to you? Laube’s like tsunami debris—he was washed up years ago.

Kramer: Look who’s talking about being washed up. The Great Robert Parker! That’s rich! We’re all here in this Godforsaken Lodi Hell because our opinions stopped mattering, because we’re dead to the world. Sure, we used to be somebodies. Our scores could make or break people. Our pronouncements carried weight. But not recently. Not right before we ended up in this Hell Hole. We were reduced to being just more internet wine chatter, the old fucks trying to talk over the party noise. A bunch of weary old men with fading senses trying to pretend the party ain’t going anywhere without us. Well, we didn’t leave the party, but the party sure left us. We’re not respected critics anymore, we’re just a string of numbers with initials after them. Like a goddam electronic wine ticker tape. 94RP, 93WS, 94WE 92CG… It’s pathetic. When we started, Gentlemen, we turned fine wines into a bull market. We taught people to love great wines with our tireless palates, our considered opinions, and our easy-to-use numbers. The wine business owes us! Now, it’s a bull-shit market, and we’re just a bunch of tired wine critics trying to hang on to past glories. We’re wine critics in hell. We’re great men. We even tried to pass the wine reviewing torch to a younger generation, but it was too late, there was no torch. Consumers blew out the damned torch. We had our day. But we stayed at the party way too long.

Suckling: Oh shut up, Kramer. Hell is listening to you pontificate. Do I have to go through eternity listening to you? Making Sense of Whinging? (to bartender) Christ, this crappy Grüner Veltliner isn’t even making me drunk! (the bartender shrugs, Suckling is clearly stating the obvious) Jesus, we have to drink this shit forever and it doesn’t even get us drunk? How come Laube’s drunk?

Laube: (slurring his words) I’m not sunk, Druckling. Uh, druk, Sunkling. I need a nap. (He puts his head down on the bar. Feiring breaks free from Parker and rushes over to see to him, caressing his head as Laube dozes on the bar.)

Feiring: Oh, Jimmy, I’m sorry I struck you. You’re the only kind one. I don’t know what got into me… (turning to the rest) You leave Jimmy alone! Can’t you see he’s miserable? You’re horrible people, all of you. You’re not even sweet enough to be Extra Dry. And you’re certainly not Natural. Why, you’re Bruts! Tasteless, cruel Bruts. You’re Veuve Clicquot! All of You! You're Yellow!

Parker: Oh, Alice, nobody here gives a Grande Dame what you think. Nobody cared when you were alive either. You only spoke for the fringe wine lovers. The ones who don’t enjoy wine, but see wine as some sort of symbol. Sure, lots of people bought my 100 Point wines to feel better about themselves. But is that any different from buying natural wines because they’re more authentic? Yeah, we fuck up the planet, ruin the environment, but we can feel OK about ourselves because we drink wines that are natural! Oh, we’re such thoughtful and engaged people. We don’t drink any of that terrible crap that wasn’t farmed biodynamically! Why, how can I enjoy a wine that wasn’t made properly?! We’ve raped the Earth, but if we’re really nice to this fifteen acres, all will be forgiven. It’s bullshit.

(The Stranger starts to laugh. He’s laughing quietly to himself at first, but then his laughter builds and he seems downright giddy. Everyone stops and stares at him.)

Stranger: (gaining his composure) Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just enjoying the show. Wonderful stuff. Why, this couldn’t have worked out any better if I’d planned it. Oh, wait, I did plan it. I have to say, the five of you are so much fun to watch. And we’re just getting started! But, I don’t know, does it seem a little…uncrowded in here?

(The door opens and in walks Antonio Galloni.)

Galloni: (to the bartender) Hey, where’s the men’s room? I need to drain my Tanzer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The HoseMaster of Wine™ Wins a Roederer International Wine Writers' Award!

Every now and then, something happens that makes you feel great. An unexpected love letter from someone you have feelings for. Praise from someone for whom you have great respect, and who praises an example of your work for which you too have great fondness. A stray dog walks up to you in a park and curls into your lap. You feel great.

I won a Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award. Imagine that.

Hell, maybe Trump does have a chance. And don’t bet against the Cubs now. It could be that kind of year for Losers.

My category was the Ramos Pinto Online Communicator of the Year Award. I think it’s abundantly clear from my work that I believe the universe has a sense of humor. Irony is not a rare and precious mineral, it is as common as the fetid air we breathe. I laughed out loud when I read the list of previous winners of the Online Communicator Award. Three names in particular gave me some perspective on the prestige of having won—W. Blake Gray, Alice Feiring, Natalie MacLean. Life does have a way of keeping one humble.

I have often remarked here that awards are more about the group handing out the awards than about the recipients. Yet I’m damned pleased to have won, if not outright astonished. The Roederer Award becomes a permanent part of my resumé, and I am honored. Is it tasteless for the winner to demand a recount?

Is it at this point that I praise the others on the short list? Why do I have the feeling that not a single one of them was that thrilled to be on the short list with the HoseMaster of Wine™? No matter. Andrew Jeffords has won six Roederers now. I think that means next time he gets the free buffet and car wash. Mr. Jeffords is a far better writer than I, I think we can all agree on that. I expected him to win, though I hate betting the sure thing. Jane Anson is a wonderful writer as well, and I had the great pleasure of meeting her at the Napa Valley Professional Wine Writers’ Symposium in January. She was my sentimental favorite to win. And win she did, luckily for me, in the Features Writing category. Well-deserved. Andrea Frost also writes a monthly piece for Tim Atkin MW, and, while her style is the sort I love to lampoon, I admire her writing ear, her ability to turn a strikingly original phrase. I don’t know anything about Yolanda Ortiz de Arri, but she has the coolest name. And Alder Yarrow and I go back a long way.

I do believe that it’s important that wine writing be recognized in a serious fashion. The Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards are doing exactly that, and I commend them. Hey, you’re going to make mistakes, but the concept is bulletproof. There are not any other awards that only honor wine writing. (First clown that brings up the Wine Blog Awards, welcome to the Go Fuck Yourself Club®!) Most awards throw in the wine category as an afterthought, a way to bring a few more eyes to their ceremonies and results. Wine writers as Miss Congeniality. In the event Miss America dies, we go to your house for the wake. It’s insulting. So I hope that the folks at the Roederers stay the course, focus solely on wine writing. Any of you who have tried to write about wine on a regular basis know how difficult it is to be thoughtful and original about what is at heart a very narrow subject. Yet it’s a beloved subject to millions of people in the world, and the people who endeavor to make it more accessible and entertaining deserve recognition. My sincerest thanks to the people at Louis Roederer. Yours is the only wine writing award I wanted to win. I never once expected I would.

And a very big thank you to the five judges. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have to think that selecting me as the winner had to feel like taking a risk. My profane and often controversial writing for Tim Atkin MW's site (all the pieces I submitted for review were originally published there) is a long way from the traditional wine writing practiced by the others on the short list. Perhaps that worked in my favor, but, nevertheless, I very much appreciate the support of the judges who had the courage, or the whimsy, to vote for me. It's a distinguished panel of judges, which makes the award that much more meaningful to me. Charles Metcalfe, Tim Atkin MW, Fiona Beckett, Sara Jane Evans MW, Bill Knott--thank you, one and all. I've never had the pleasure of meeting any of you, which also worked in my favor, I'm certain.

Writing is a peculiar compulsion. I’ve written that I do this simply to make people laugh, but that’s not entirely true. I do it primarily for myself. I publish it to make people laugh, but I write to open that door in my mind where the voice now called the HoseMaster dwells. I’m not an interesting person in real life. I’m not well-traveled, I’m not especially brilliant, I’m deeply insecure and often withdrawn. Yet I can find this part of my mind that makes people laugh, that is able to see the farce that is every day life, that is fearless and quick-witted, unafraid to tell truths that others will not, that appeals to intelligent people and attractive women. I’m only that man when I’m here writing in that voice, and that requires I be alone a lot of the time, and lost in my thoughts much of the time otherwise. I live in my head. So often the rest of the world is a disappointment. You don’t want to be me.

I most certainly did not begin HoseMaster of Wine™ in order to become an award-winning wine writer. I had no aspirations when I began, and I still have none. I’m not a journalist. I write about wine, but wine isn’t my subject. Human foible and folly are my subjects, with wine as a mirror. I’m not really sure what it is I communicate online as Online Communicator of the Year. Maybe that wine and the wine business are not above satire any more than any other subject is above it. Maybe that wine isn’t just a terrible financial investment, but it’s also a terrible emotional investment. Maybe that knowing a lot about wine doesn’t make you important, or valuable, or admirable. We all take wine too seriously. Yes, it’s a miracle, but so is pizza. Maybe we should stop lying so much about wine.

I’m very flattered and extremely proud to have won a Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award. Thank you to all the judges, and to Champagne Roederer and Ramos Pinto, the finest Port producer in the history of Port producers. Suck it, Fonseca.

I’ve been at this for a long stretch now, and the rewards have been immeasurably life-changing and rewarding. Awards recognize past accomplishments, and are fleeting. In the real world, you’re only as good as your recent work. The people I’ve met because of my work are the real reward. They are too numerous to mention, but you all know who you are. A writer writes alone, but lives among those who read his work. Being unread is death to a writer. A voice unheard is no voice at all. Thanks to all those who have heard me.

I know I offend people. I intend offense. Satire is intended to outrage and offend people. I measure my own success by who it is I’ve offended, who I’ve driven to outrage. I judge myself by that list of people, and I am content when everyone on that list is a fool, an idiot, or an asshole. So far, so good. Most have been all three. But satire is more than that. It spits in the face of false authority. It questions the establishment (oh, yes, I grew up in the ’60’s). It makes us laugh while it makes us think, and that is a rare kind of doubleheader. I am not a great satirist, or a comic genius. But if I’ve somehow paved the way for that kind of talent to emerge by being recognized with a Roederer Award, if I've made satire seem more vital to the wine business, then I’ve succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

Thank You, Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards. I feel great.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Child's Garden of Wine Verses

There was a crooked man, and he had a crooked view,

He owned a crooked business by the name of Premier Cru.

He’d sell you crooked Petrus, he’d sell you fake Mouton, see,

He’d bugger your dumb ass with his little scheme of Ponzi.

Mary had a Coravin,
She’d been fleeced, you know,
And every wine that Mary drank
Convinced her it was so.

It pierced the foil and the cork,
Which was against all rules,
The air replaced with neutral gas,
The wise replaced with fools.

But Parker had come out for it,
And praised the way it works.
They sold a million tubes of gas—
Symbolic of the jerks.


“You pierce the cork with stainless steel,
Remove it and it heels.
I remember my virginity,
I know how that cork feels.”

“But filling me with nasty gas,”
Said Mary to the makers,
“Just doesn’t keep my insides fresh—
Ask any undertakers.”

So Mary took her Coravin,
And all its stupid needles,
And tossed them in the fucking trash.
“It’s just as fake as Riedels.”

Simple Simon met a Steiman                                         
Living in an RV.
Said Simple Simon to the Steiman,
Your first name must be Harvey.

Says Simple Steiman to our Simon,
What about it, jerk?                           
Says Simple Simon to the Steiman,
I’m a big fan of your work.

Simple Simon went Tim-Fishing,
It was his stupid hobby.
“You must be quite an imbecile
To be beneath Jim Laube.”

“You all write just alike to me
Your works could not be samer.
Pretentious is your middle names,
Its last name ends in Kramer.”

We taste blind. We taste blind.

For all you know. For all you know.

We give the points that we think are due,

Them use them for our ad revenue,

But we swear to God that it isn’t true,

How stupid are you?

Little Miss Puckette

Sat on a bucket

Stealing her charts from prey.

Then came a real writer

Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Puckette away.

Monday’s wine is full of sweet,  
Tuesday’s wine goes great with meat.

Wednesday’s wine is full of Brett 
Thursday’s wine smells like ball sweat.

Friday’s wine is fucking corked. 
Saturday’s wine makes you feel porked.

But Sunday’s wine you think is rare will
Prove a fake from Acker Merrall.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Love Among the Somms

Members of the Sommish People

The Somms are a strange people, only recently discovered by Westerners. Little is known about where they originated, though most anthropologists agree that it was very early in the 21st Century that most Americans became aware of them, rather like radical Islamist terrorists, or the bizarre Butt people from Kardashia. Many speculate that the symbolic changing of millennia is what created the atmosphere for such bizarre cults to emerge. Our fascination for freaks in stressful times, and our fears about the end of the civilized world, may be what nurtures the rise of such strange and self-serving peoples. Pound for pound, only the Somms have bigger asses than the Butt people of Kardashia.

You'll find many interesting observations in my anthropological study of the Sommish people, but you'll have to make the leap over to Tim Atkin MW's award-winning site to read them. While you're there, be sure to contribute to this landmark study of the Somms with a pithy comment. Or, if you must, pour me a small taste of what you have to say, I'll give it the sniff test, and tell you if it smells like shit.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Alice in Naturaland, or Through the Isinglass

Lisa Perrotti-Brown was one of the panelists on a seminar about minerality I attended at the Napa Valley Professional Wine Writers Symposium last January, along with Doug Frost and Jeannie Cho Lee. That’s three MWs and an MS. Four for the price of three, like a BevMo Five Cent Sale, only not a ripoff. Seems like overkill, though I still walked out thinking minerality is to wine what sand is to bathing suits—it might be there, but it’s incredibly irritating how much it comes up.

I never had the chance to speak with Lisa at the Symposium. I never approach famous wine people I may have insulted. Many want to meet the HoseMaster of Wine™, and many really don’t. I am a recluse anyway, so I just wait for people to introduce themselves to me. But a few days after the Symposium, Lisa tweeted that she wished she’d said hello to me, so I tweeted back, and we met for dinner. A lovely friendship was born.

Of course, most of you know Lisa Perrotti-Brown as the Editor-in-Chief of the Wine Advocate. Recently, the Wine Advocate, under her direction, has launched a new website, with a great deal of free content. A few months ago, Lisa approached me asking if I’d be open to writing a satiric piece for the site once a month or so, the aim being to have something more cutting edge on the new site. We had a long talk about it.

My only concern was the obvious one. Nothing is more deadly to a satirist than becoming part of the establishment, or the appearance of same. Except, perhaps, abject poverty. I’ve long had a champion in Tim Atkin MW (what’s telling about the wine world is that the bigshot MWs tend to be very supportive of what I do while the bigshot MSs, now there’s an oxymoron, tend to hate what I do), and I am very grateful for all that Tim has done to promote the HoseMaster. I never expected that kind of support from anyone as famous and talented in the wine business as Tim Atkin MW. And now along comes Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, with the approval of Robert Parker EW (Emperor of Wine), asking me to write original material for the new Wine Advocate site. And pay me.

Lisa is a very talented writer, a woman who originally wanted to be a playwright, and no doubt has the talent to be a successful one. When we talk, she and I often talk about writing, and she’s very insightful and wonderfully funny. She was quick to assure me that she wouldn’t edit my work, something Tim has always adhered to as well. And that I could write whatever I wanted, and never worry about going after Parker, her, the Wine Advocate, or anyone who writes for them. In other words, don’t change a thing. So I said I would do it.

There isn’t much cutting edge wine writing. I love how Wine Spectator calls Matt Kramer “irreverent.” He’s about as irreverent as Perry Como, or George Will. I appreciate how much attention my raucous, ribald, often nasty brand of satire has been getting lately, not because it brings attention to me (anyone who knows me will tell you I dread the attention), but because the wine business needs satire, needs a skeptical eye, the more eyes the better.  That a publication like Wine Advocate, and critics of the status of Tim Atkin MW, Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW and Robert Parker EW (there isn’t any higher status than those three), endorse my work is acceptance that gratifies me enormously.

But enough. Here’s the first piece on the Wine Advocate site. Comments aren’t allowed there at the moment, so feel free to return here and give me a raft of shit for selling out.