Monday, July 6, 2015

Le Flash in Le Pan

Le Pan in the Ass


Le Pan is the only wine magazine that answers the questions to which real wine connoisseurs need answers. Is my private jet a good place to store my First Growths? How does cabin pressure affect Champagne—does it make it just like fine wine sales in China? Flat? Should Grand Cru Burgundy smell like where I stable my polo ponies? Or worse, where I house my sweatshop employees? How do I know auction bottles are genuine, and not fake like the Cartier watches my factory slaves make? Do stupid Americans actually buy Yao Ming’s Cabernet?

There's a new wine rag in town, Le Pan. After you read this letter from the publisher, a Master of Wine, no less, you'll want to subscribe. Or commit suicide. I'll probably do both. To read the rest of the publisher's letter, head directly to Tim Atkin M.W., the only M.W. not on Le Pan's masthead, I think. And feel free to respond over at Tim's, or leave your response here inside a fortune cookie.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

EPHEMERA: Wine Blogging--Just Another Kind of Sad and Lonely Exhibitionism

I was a judge in two wine competitions in June, the California State Fair Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition. That explains why I was absent for so much of June. Well, that and apathy.

I spend a lot of time wondering why I do what I do now, considering where I've been, and considering the big wine picture. It seems to be out of some sort of need for attention. Which is pathetic. Writing HoseMaster of Wine™ was originally a way for me to see if I could still write satire. But after five years and more than 400 pieces I think I’ve answered that question. No fucking way. However, I have received an awful lot of attention, much of it negative, and, like the flasher in a battered trenchcoat who lives for the reactions, I keep waving my weenie around hoping for applause for my limp apparatus. Maybe wine blogging is just another kind of sad and lonely exhibitionism.

The nominees for the Poodles were announced (the winners having just been announced) and I ill-advisedly perused many of the nominees. Ouch. I don’t know who the judges were, but theirs must have a terrible task, the equivalent of judging the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and having to drink the hot dog water afterward. Yet this year I felt some compassion for the nominees. Most must have felt gratified to have been nominated. I lobbied hard not to be nominated, I hate meaningless awards, which is another kind of pathetic. I didn't vote for the Poodles, but I certainly hoped that Chris Kassel would win for Best Writing on a Wine Blog (he didn’t, but he won for Best Blog Post of the Year, ironically, for a post that had nothing really to do with wine, but with Robin Williams' suicide--Morgue and Mindy) because he’s smarter and funnier than I am, and comedy is so much harder to write than tepid wine prose. That said, I’m sure Chris doesn’t give a crap that he won. I never did.

I ask myself all the time, what am I trying to prove by writing HoseMaster of Wine™? I don’t know the answer. Maybe I’m not trying to prove anything. But it feels to me like I am. Only I don’t know what. If anything, it’s to prove that I love wine. Not particular wines, not the romance of wine, just wine. And like any great love, I can’t explain why. I can only say I know my life would have been empty without it. That my love for wine is what led me to everything good about my life. So I feel protective of it, and I dislike those who merely use it, those who talk about it thoughtlessly, those who pretend to love wine, pretend to know more about wine than they actually do, but are merely using wine to benefit themselves. And they are legion.

I’ve always hated the pretentiousness that surrounds wine. Smart people can be pretentious, which is shameful. And stupid people can be pretentious, which is laughable. Wine writing these days seems guilty of being both shameful and laughable. Not all of it, not every single instance, not every single writer, but far too much. On the cosmic scale of being human, knowing a lot about wine barely ranks above being good at pinball. The endless debates that surround wine elevate trivia to heights equalled only by TMZ and pledging sororities. Yet chat rooms and blogs are filled with the kinds of wine frauds that would make Rudy Kurniawan proud, and only because wine is deemed important. I love wine, but I’d never, in the grand scheme of things, attribute it much importance.

In 2014 I judged in six wine competitions. This year I’ve judged two, and I’m probably done for the year. I know why I attend competitions. For the simple joy of being around a bunch of interesting wine folks, many, if not all, of whom know more about wine than I. It’s kind of like attending Bible Study, only everybody’s nuts and drinks too much. So just like Bible Study. Judging reminds me over and over again how endlessly fascinating wine is, and how it unfailingly outmatches us, humbles our feeble senses of smell and taste. Wine isn’t about those senses, though in a strictly objective sense it is. Wine is really about camaraderie, congeniality and laughter, the simple joy of intemperance. Or it’s supposed to be. Too often that is missing from wine judging, and from wine writing.

Truthfully, it’s also flattering to be asked to judge a prestigious wine competition. Not getting asked to return can be disheartening, a kick in the old grape nuts, but when you’re the HoseMaster, well, you never expect to be invited to the cool parties in the first place. Satirists never are. Getting invited even once is pretty cool, makes me feel accepted and appreciated. So, again, we’re back to pathetic.

Pardon my little rambling essay. EPHEMERA has always been about sitting in front of the fucking blinking cursor and just expressing what’s been running through my twisted mind. I do wonder why I do this. I don’t need to; it isn’t keeping a roof over my head. It isn’t a path to fame and reputation—not the way I do it anyway. It’s not even very good, not a repository of wit or insight that the world will some day honor and read. It seems to be some sick way of caring about wine, some way to repay what I owe to wine. As if that were possible.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Excerpts from Parker's "The Emperor's Diaries"

Editor’s Note: The Emperor’s Diaries were only recently discovered in the shopping cart of a homeless natural wine salesman living on the outskirts of Monkton, Maryland. After a painstaking translation from the Emperor’s native tongue, Hyperbole, a few excerpts from The Emperor’s Diaries were made available for publication prior to the diaries’ holiday release. The excerpts only hint at the importance of the document to the history of wine. We are honored to be the first to publish them.

February 1978

I think I’m going to start a brilliant wine publication, with hints of brimstone and new-mown hubris. I’m sick of being an attorney. No one likes attorneys. I want to be liked. I’m sure that if I become a successful wine writer, everyone will like me. Wine writers are far more popular than lawyers, even though both occupations are based on empty rhetoric. I would be able to travel the world and taste the greatest wines with the greatest winemakers, show them what they’re doing wrong. Wine needs a writer like that, with impeccable balance, and subtle notes of ultimate authority and papal infallibility, a critic whose palms aren’t quite as unctuous as our current wine writers’. I’m the guy.

Now I just need to think of a name and a gimmick.

June 1978

I’ve been wrestling with what to name my new wine publication tour-de-force. I have so many ideas, but none seems to stick. “The Wine Tour-de-Force” sounds pretty good. I might go with that! Imagine seeing my wine reviews published everywhere—in winery newsletters, on wine shop shelves, on the damned wine labels themselves—followed by the initials “WTF!” I predict this is exactly what will happen. And everyone will know what “WTF” stands for—it will be suffixed to my name for decades. But Wine Tour-de-Force just doesn’t sound right.

My wine publication will have a sole purpose. Not sure what that will be, but I’m dedicated to it. If it were up to me, the sole purpose would be to make me rich and famous. But that won’t work. Wine critics don’t get rich and famous. They get drunk and gout. Maybe the sole purpose should be integrity, to bring truth and independence to wine reviewing! Nah, that’s just crazy talk.

I’m still stuck on a name though. Right now I’m a lawyer, so maybe “The Wine Lawyer.” That could work. Or maybe “The Wine Public Defender!” Sticking up for your wine rights at no charge! Oh. That’s not quite right, either, but I think I’m getting warm. I’ll think about it. Meanwhile, I have to go and read the interview with Robert Lawrence Balzer in the new issue of “The Advocate.” Can’t wait.

July 1978

For practice, I’ve already started writing wine reviews. They’re dazzling, with lingering notes of thesaurus and echolalia. But I think I need some kind of ranking system so that my readers will know which wines I prefer. Writing reviews is easy for me, I have the nose of cadaver dog and and the vocabulary of William F. Buckley, Jr. getting a blowjob from Farrah Fawcett, but the wine descriptions will be the least important part of my new wine publication, “The Wine Closet.” (Not yet sure of that title, but the Balzer piece inspired me.) What will be important is the ranking system I employ. The ones out there right now don’t appeal to me. The 20-Point Scale is for academics. Everyone hates academics, even more than they hate lawyers. And, besides you have to spend all this time assigning numbers to crap that doesn’t matter, like aroma and clarity. Hell, I go to the john for aroma and clarity. Besides, I want to review hundreds and hundreds of wines in every issue of “The Wine Dandy.” (Getting closer…) Having to pay close attention, and then doing a bunch of addition, just won’t cut it.

And then there’s those guys out in California who rate wines with “stars,” though they look more like pasties for hot, busty Smurfs, or those rubber thingies you put in your bathtub so you don’t slip. Doesn’t matter, but that’s a damned stupid rating system. Wines have to go up higher than three. Three’s not a number that catches your attention. “Why, this fantastic wine is a 3!” That doesn’t make anyone want to buy it. Those guys are stupid. Maybe 100 would get your attention, but not 3. I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it some more.

I didn’t know it would be so hard to start a new wine publication.

August 1978

The 100-Point Scale! It was there all along! I can be so stupid sometimes, like when I bought all those ’72 Bordeaux futures. I’ll rank my wines using a 100-Point Scale. It’s genius. Everybody who went to public school knows that 100 points is a perfect score. Oh, I won’t give out 100 point scores very often. That would cheapen them. When you only have three crummy stars to award, well, you have to give three stars a lot. There just aren’t that damned many scores. There are only THREE! Duh. I’ll have 100 points. I’ll award 100 points maybe a couple of times a year. Any more than that and, well, I’d look like a profligate jackass. Oh, this is really gonna work great.

So now I just have to make up an explanation of how I arrive at my numbers for wines. No problem, I have a law degree, making up specious explanations comes under, “Previous Job Experience.” Now I’m just free-ballin’ it here, but let’s just say I start at 50. A wine gets 50 points to start with, kind of like how you get $200 when you start playing Monopoly for no apparent reason. Yup, 50 points, and then I start rolling the dice. Just off the top of my head, let’s say I give up to 10 points for color. Color doesn’t mean shit in wine, but I need to jack up the points, so let’s say 10. What the hell would a wine look like that got a 3 for color? Who knows? Who cares? It would have to be orange. Yeah, like orange wines make any sense.

Of course, for aroma a wine can get up to 20 points. It doesn’t really matter. I’m not ever going to actually assign numbers for color, or aroma, or intensity, or finish, or anything else individually. I have a life, for Christ’s sake. It’s only wine. But the 100-Point Scale needs to have the appearance of objectivity. Otherwise, people will think I’m just making the numbers up. Which I am, but I don’t want them to think that. It won’t take long, and I’ll know exactly what “87” smells and tastes like. Scoring for color and aroma and texture and balance and length? You can’t give numbers to those things. That’s crazy. I’ll just give a number to the wine.

Oh, I’m getting a good feeling about this. If I work hard enough, everyone will rely on my new wine publication. Everyone will want a subscription to “The Wine Probe.”