Monday, December 12, 2016
The HoseMaster of Wine's™ Holiday Wishes for the Wine Business
Well, one thing about Trump winning the election, we’ll have a White Christmas this year. And a lovely tree decorated with big shiny balls, courtesy of Anthony Weiner. Though one would assume that Hillary will have a Blew Christmas.
The holidays are upon us. I’m not sure I’m in the mood to celebrate, though after reading about plans to clearcut several hundred acres and threaten watersheds for more vineyard development in Napa Valley for Walt Wines, I am ready to deck the Halls. However, in the spirit of the season, which seems to be Bourbon-barrel-aged wines (what’s new about that? Silver Oak did it for 30 years), I wanted to express my wishes for gifts I hope the wine business receives this holiday season.
Let’s begin with the gift of forgiveness. I hope that we find it in our hearts to forgive poor Rudy Kurniawan, and all the other wine forgers in the world. It’s only wine. Furthermore, it’s wine coveted by the worst sorts of people—wealthy wine collectors. It’s mostly dirty money used to buy fake wines. There’s a poetry to that. There’s peace of mind in knowing that the cellars featured in glossy wine publications, the doting owner standing in front of his collection like King Tut in his tomb, are probably full of fakes, much like the staff of the glossy magazine itself. We have Rudy and his like to thank for that. And consider this, the more fakes there are in the market the greater the value of the real things. It worked for tits! Try to think of Rudy as the breast implant king of wine. Hard to be mad at the guy.
Though it may be much harder to forgive the auction houses that have gone unpunished for their part in the scam. They received a healthy cut of Dr. Conti’s ill-gotten gains, and laughed all the way to the Left Bank. I would wish this holiday season that everyone take a year off from buying wines at auction. Throw away your Acker Merrall catalogs, your Sotheby’s wine porn strokebook. Give the money to your local wine merchant. Buy wines from struggling young producers. Invest in your local wine bar. Boycott auctions. Fakes only go away when there’s no market for them—the Cosby Effect. And Acker Merrall practiced Cosbyism—Convince them there’s something good in their glass, then fuck ‘em!
While we’re at it, let’s forgive John Fox of Premier Cru for peddling phony wine futures. As if there are any other kind. He did the best he could. Give me tens of millions of dollars for pieces I have to write two years from now and, trust me, there are going to be some mighty happy hookers out there. It’s sweetly ironic that his name is John, and Fox. I’m reminded of Aesop’s fable of the Fox and the Grapes. If a bunch of sheep had come along and offered Aesop’s fox a bunch of money for grapes he knew he was never going to able to obtain anyway, he would have taken it, too! That we cannot forgive John Fox is sour grapes on our part. Hey, it’s not like he sold them fakes! Or burned down a warehouse full of other peoples wines. He had integrity! He sold people imaginary wines from a warehouse that didn’t exist. Think of the money he took as gratuities for his wonderful storytelling. Hard to be mad at the guy.
And what about the gift of peace of mind? I think the wine business needs a big dose of peace of mind. I, for one, am tired of all the people taking potshots at the Natural Wine movement. That’s cowardly, and I won’t stand for it. These Natural Wine people are doing God’s work, freeing Him to create more Master Sommeliers from the ribs of Fred Dame. You’d think they’d be women once in a while, but He works in mysterious ways. As does God. Anyhow, it’s time for the wine business to make peace between the Natural Wine folks and the people who make inferior wine. I know this, the wine doesn’t care if it’s Natural Wine or not. Wine is wine. Is it organic, biodynamic, authentic, honest, natural or Certified Sensitive®? Who cares? Let’s not judge. Let’s love wine unconditionally. Let’s embrace each wine for what it is. A way for us to get hammered. A way to impress others. A way to feel better about ourselves. That’s why we got into the wine business, after all. The wine is only secondary to our need for affirmation and envy. Let’s not muddle that with unnecessary and pointless conversations about how authentic a wine might be. Does it make us feel superior? That’s the only job of a wine.
Also, this Christmas, how about the gift of humility? Can we stop pretending that being a sommelier is an important job? Or wine critic? Or wine writer? /satirist? There are more sommeliers now than there are homeless veterans. I saw a somm at a busy intersection with a cardboard sign that said, “Will Decant for Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.” It’s really sad when they aim so low. In Sonoma County, near where I live, there’s an encampment of unemployed sommeliers living under the freeway. On warm nights, they huddle together for cold.
Is there a chance this holiday season that wine critics will stop gloating all the time? It isn’t that hard to be a wine critic. I think that’s rather apparent. In fact, the only hard thing about being a wine critic is having to write countless descriptions of wine and not sound like a complete jackass. Which no one has done yet. Reading Parker’s descriptions of California wine remind me of one thing—they gave Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature! For less. Parker’s body of work is every bit as unintelligible and pretentious as Dylan’s! Every bit. Of course, Parker isn’t eligible for the Nobel. It’s never awarded posthumously. Dylan only got it because his lips still move.
Awarding points to wine doesn’t take any talent at all. There’s nothing to gloat about. It’s essentially the same job as calling Bingo at the church social. People worship you because you give them the numbers they want, but, for you, it’s just random. You pick them out of a bowl. Yes, you can gloat because you get to taste all the best wines in the world, and you get your butt kissed endlessly, but deep down you know you’re a fraud. It’s a game, and you’re holding all the cards. And then you throw in a little false humility. “I gave the wine a 95+ because I may have underrated it.” Oh, how nice of you to admit you may have been a little bit wrong. We’re so grateful for your candor, your sense of honesty and purpose. It’s OK, really, give it a fucking 96! When the day comes that we taste it, which won’t happen because only 40 cases were produced, we’ll forgive you if it turns out to be a 95. Whatever the hell a 95 is.
As for wine writers, try not to be so predictable. Try to remember that every damn thing you have to say about wine was said more articulately by someone more talented than you fifty years ago. Asimov, no more wine school! Every damn month, more wine school. It’s just filler. The New York Times Wine School is the styrofoam peanuts of wine writing. How the hell do we get rid of that useless filler crap? Wine Folly! Way to be trendy. You were way out in front of the fake news phenomenon! You can fool all of the people all of the time. Now go. Matt Kramer! “Drinking Out Loud” is called belching! And it sounds the same every time you burp it up. Take some damn Gas-X. You’ll feel better, and we can get some peace and quiet.
My final wish for the wine business this holiday season is that we take ourselves and our wines a lot less seriously in the coming year. Wine is not the romantic and mystical product so many of those invested in it want us to believe it is. Wine experts are not more sophisticated or intelligent than other people. Wine reflects place like dumps reflect their neighborhood—nothing magical about it, just a lot of inevitable and endless garbage. Enjoy wine more, every wine, while you have the chance. Too much of the business revolves around making you feel there’s something better out there than what you’re drinking right now. And that has never been true.