Monday, March 27, 2017

Newer, Better Wine Critics You Should Be Reading

It’s entirely possible to pursue your wine education reading the same old critics over and over again, but that’s the equivalent of only drinking Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc while ignoring the other eight thousand varieties. For the most part, let’s face it, you read the critics who reinforce your own opinions and tastes. It’s what humans do. Yes, it’s obvious the folks who support Trump are assholes for believing everything he says and not seeing through the constant lies, but there’s absolutely no reason to doubt that what Alice Feiring says about natural wines is true because it just feels right. This is how we think. Keeping an open mind is for other people, mine’s only open every other Tuesday. Don’t tell me Zinfandel can make great wine, I just told you I don’t like it. I am completely open to your opinion, except when you’re wrong, which is always when you disagree with me. Zinfandel is too jammy, like that smegma between my toes. But have you tried this Trousseau? It’s natural wine, only lightly fined with placenta extracted from a sheep. I watched it happen on Ewe Tube.

Maybe you only read Robert Parker because you like the reassurance that your cellar full of very expensive and highly rated Cabernets from Napa Valley is well-chosen, the envy of wine lovers everywhere. Well, you’re a different form of idiot—ask anyone with a little lapel pin that subtly notifies you that they are foolproof when it comes to wine knowledge. The only Master Sommeliers who confess to loving Napa Valley Cabernets are the ones employed at wineries there, or who lie on behalf of Constellation or Jackson Family Wines for a living. Which turns out to be most of them. They’re the laughing stocks of MS’s. It’s like being a wine writer and your main credit is “PUNCH.” Which is to wine writing what Apothic is to wine—it bears only a vague resemblance.

Reading every issue of “Wine Spectator” is the wine lover’s equivalent of the movie, “Groundhog’s Day.” It’s the same issue every fucking time you pick one up. The editorial content is more tightly pinched than Sean Hannity’s sphincter. And why is the magazine itself so goddam large? “Wine Spectator” is like wine’s answer to IMAX films. Its only reason to exist is that it’s ridiculously big. The content is utterly unimportant. The only thing glossier than an issue of “Wine Spectator” is my eyes when I’m reading the magazine’s columnists. Who the hell reads Matt Kramer? Eye charts make more sense, and are far more irreverent.

It’s time that you begin to read other wine critics. Get out of your comfort zone. Broaden your wine horizons. Wine lovers who only drink wines under 13% ABV, or only drink 100 point wines, or refuse any wine that isn’t a natural wine, I hold in equal contempt. “Natural wines are the only ones that taste good to me.” “What score did it get?” “I don’t like Napa Valley Cabernet.” Hard to decide which sentence is the most ignorant. Is there a 100 point scale for ignorance? Those are all 95+. The “+” because I may have underrated the ignorance. And the same is true for wine writers. Try someone new! Parker is Parker, Galloni is baloney, Puckette is Breitbart News (if you ignore that first syllable), strictly truth-adjacent. Find a new wine writer to follow, someone with a new axe to grind, wearing a different set of Virtual Reality goggles than Asimov, Feiring, Laube, or Jefford. I have a few suggestions…

TouchMyJunket—Talking about integrity and standards in wine journalism is a lot like the debate surrounding the use of condoms in the porn industry. It might be the right thing to do, but nobody in the industry wants them. It just doesn’t feel right for those participating. We’re consenting adults fucking each other. It feels best this way. Mind your own business and watch. Which is why I value the opinions of Frank Payola on his blog Frank goes on more wine junkets each year than Jamie Goode, Elaine Brown and Joe Roberts combined! It’s his tireless pursuit of wine knowledge on our behalf that inspires me. And, like all the wine journalists I can think of, he’s never been to a wine region he doesn’t love. And, honestly, on top of that, when it comes to wine reviews, objectivity is highly overrated, though happily extinct. Everybody’s so damned critical, so opinionated about wine. Not Frank Payola! Free trip to Uruguay? Why Frank can write a thousand words about the glories of Uruguayan wine that more than offsets the cost of his hotel mini-fridge bills. See his piece, “I’m Devoted to Tannatural Wines.” Oh, it’s the kind of pay-for-play journalism that makes America Great Again. You should make a habit of reading TouchMyJunket. It’s refreshing to see that wine journalists are not nearly as expensive to buy as the wines they travel to write about.

Ted Frasker—Syndicated in several hundred newspapers around the country, Ted writes about all the industrial plonk you can’t afford to miss in the sort of language normally generated by random word programs. The good thing about Ted? He really believes there are great wines under $20! So sweet. Like those people who believe building a wall will make their life better. Because that always works. Ask any Berliner. Now, we all know there are no great wines under $20. None. Zero. Only an idiot thinks there are great wines under $20. But it’s so frustrating that major wine critics don’t rate the hundreds of wine labels of manufactured grape juice available—unless, of course, the corporation that makes them pays for advertising. Hell, we’ll take an 86 as long as the label photo we paid for isn’t blurry. Ted, though, he only tastes those corporate wines. “Sure, they all taste about the same. I have standards, though,” Ted told me. “I only review wines made with indigenous chemicals.”

Isabel Sans Clapper MW—“I don’t think making Natural Wines is enough,” Clapper proclaims. “We need to focus on wines of a higher consciousness. I won’t recommend any wine that hasn’t been Certified Enlightened™.” Unenlightened wines are a product of modern technology, or a poor upbringing. They not only ruin the Earth, they can harm your aura. Clapper has begun a movement, one that’s catching on among all the young sommeliers (or “somms,” because knowing how to speak French is giving in to the Man), that supports only wines that have been Certified Enlightened™. “A Certified Enlightened™ wine,” Clapper tells me, “is a wine that lives in the moment. Some call that a short finish, I call it awareness.” Clapper’s followers assure me that Certified Enlightened™ wines will not give you a hangover because they listen to you, they hear you, and then they talk you out of a second glass. “There’s something deeply spiritual about Certified Enlightened™ wines,” she insists, “so you can’t trust objective realities like smell and taste. What kind of a monster are you? Certified Wines™ don’t just reflect terroir, they reflect all sorts of other imaginary concepts. Those who drink anything less are not only harming Mother Earth, they’re killin’ my vibe.”


Unknown said...

You forgot Florence Falsikant. No kant do Florence. she presents alternative facts and alternative reviews. Good to see a 100 point wine rated 73+. such wines have nowhere to go but up. Bob Millman

clay h. said...

Good one. I look forward to your comments on FitVine, should they ever land in your sights.

Charlie Olken said...

I am a big fan of Isabel. Went to a fancy SF restaurant last weekend and drank a lot of wine. By the end of the evening, I swear the wine was talking to me because I was hearing voices.

Isabel makes a lot of sense. She knows that you have to feel your wine. What good is a wine that cannot sing? Cannot move you to tears? I want to hear Madonna when I am drinking Argentian Malbec. I want to hear Abba when I am drinking Swedish wine. I want to hear Lawrence Welk when I drinking soft plonk from Lodi.

And here is something that you may not have known. Isabel is the test-tube daughter of James Clapper. Even when a wine talks only to itself, she can hear it.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'm always open to other newer, better wine critics like Flo Falsikant. There's an entire blogosphere of newer, better wine critics who have the right idea--experience, knowledge and integrity are so Obama... Internet rules! Truth-adjacent is good enough. It's all about the hits. The hits just keep on comin'...

OK, I'm drunk.

You're not the first person to mention fitvine to me. Are people really believing the shit they peddle? I guess I'll have to take a closer look and see what I can do. Thanks for the motivation.

I used to say that natural wine advocates, the most rabid of them, and they are legion, or Legeron, were the Amish people of wine. Now I'm beginning to think that they're a kind of cult closer to channeling. You don't just drink a wine. You drink the wine and then it speaks through you, usually in a husky male voice, like Lucille Ball's when she was old.

I never thought about James Clapper. Good reference! It turns out that now the Russians can spy on on you through your Riedel (The Stemware of Eternal Damnation™) Sommelier Series Burgundy glass. They break so easily because the Russkies often get the radio frequency wrong and that shatters the glass.

Told you I was drunk this morning.

Aaron said...

Starting off this seemed much more Epherma. And then I was rewarded for my patience and continued reading. Brilliant work. Oh, and is actually a domain available for registration at regular prices. No "buy this domain now" needed! Congratulations :) You should do a cross-over piece with the porn industry. At least they straight out admit they are paying for it, instead of a case accidentally falling into the back of the trunk that was handily left open. Oh wait, what is that doing there? Oh well. Next!

Unknown said...

Dear HM,
Please do look deeper into Fitvine.
I ingredient label, I see no evidence they do. I'm seeing very little attribution on their site.
I'm thinking bigger pile of BS than Naked Wines, whose whites are all way over 0.8 molecular SO2, and reds are chipped bulk wines nought from somewhere.
Paul Vandenberg
Paradisos del Sol

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote this piece. I just needed to write a piece. It sort of stinks, but, hell, you can't hit a home run every at bat. Every now and then you go up to the plate and make a jackass of yourself. And so it goes...

I'm hardly an investigative wine journalist. I guess it's flattering that people suggest targets for my lampoonery, and I do appreciate the suggestions, but I work more on whim than anything else. How did Fitvine become a thing? Is it really a thing? Do they actually sell a lot of wine? Do we care?

I will check them out, and then I'll just see where my twisted mind takes me. If anywhere. Thanks for being a common tater.

Paul in St. Augustine said...

As long as you're trying out different wine sites, try the First Leaf Club, where they will sell you a $40 bottle for only $15.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

The founder of First Leaf was who founded Lot18, where I worked sourcing wine for a while many years ago. So no thanks. And, also, I don't want folks plugging things here. You're a long time common tater, Paul, so no worries. I just don't want it to become a habit. Thank you.

Paul in St. Augustine said...

I think those people are pulling wool over the eyes of their customers. Every post I make to their FB page is pulled by them. I'm apologize for giving the impression that I was plugging them.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh, I misread your comment. Sorry. It wouldn't surprise me if you're correct. It's the old saw, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.

No need for an apology. Sorry I misunderstood. There's so much shady crap in the wine biz, I barely have time to be sued by all of them.

Paul in St. Augustine said...

Ahh, rainbows and unicorns. Too bad we live on opposite sides of the country because I'd love to share a bottle of your favorite natural wine. Or not.

Unknown said...

Another one you should include is the wine writer who lives in the city and wants to lecture you about farming. I'll leave it up to you to think of a funny name

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I love a lot of natural wines, or, as I call them, wine.

Todd Underpants.

Bob Henry said...

I can't wait for the wine critic who stakes out as her or his niche only biodynamic wines.

That's true "Enlightenment" . . . certified by Demeter.