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.