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.