Like so many of you, I like to pause during the final weeks of December and do some personal reflection with the aim of becoming a better parent, a better friend, a better American and a kinder, gentler anti-journalist in the upcoming Year of the Triskaidekaphobe, 2013.
At times—as you know—this can be difficult. When one confronts one’s self with one’s wonders, the war seems overwhelmingly winnable. But, when one becomes one with one’s warts and weaknesses, one may find one’s wonders woefully wanting.
Even so, honesty and private personal showdown is the only pathway to self-improvement, right?
Of course, being an uncontainable narcissist convinced that everyone on the planet is interested in me, I don’t do ‘private’. So, with my soul bared in truth and sincerity, here is probably the only thing I can find that is really wrong with me:
I’m jealous of wine writers with global influence.
And, as a result, rather than simply ‘growing up’ and learning more about the subject itself—the history of vinification, the numerous emerging appellations, the recent trends and latest news in the wine industry—I instead act out my pique like a petulant pre-schooler.
I make fun of Alice Feiring’s frizzy shredded-wheat split-ends, Robert Parker’s pretentious, repetitious, silly-sounding made-up words, and the fact that if you say ‘Hugh Johnson’ really fast, it comes out ‘huge johnson’.
I torment Michael Broadbent for his cult-like obsession with Château Musar despite the fact that nine bottles out of ten taste like manure-flavored prune juice. I claim that Tim Atkin has a prose-style only slightly more fun than the time spent waiting for a glacier to calve. I call Oz Clarke a yellow-brick-road munchkin and Eric Asimov a space alien; I mock Jancis Robinson for totally misspelling her own name, and, rather than devouring the delightful, insightful wine wisdom of Karen MacNeil, I fantasize about what she looks like naked.
It’s not that I’m a total unprofessional jerk-off, compatriots. I’m just a crestfallen loser in the Land of the Unlimited Lazy.
…two decades ago, I was a boy with dreams. Big ones. The fire in my belly was more than the three shots 190-proof Everclear Grain Alcohol that I routinely have for breakfast.
I went into wine writing not for the free samples, not for the chance to day-drink at winemaker lunches nor to score semi-tanked chicks in winery tasting rooms. I took up my pen with the intention of changing the world. The stars in my eyes were similar to the ones that Dom Perignon once claimed to have tasted in his Épernay wine cellar.
I didn’t want to write ‘wine reviews’ so much as re-write the way wine reviews themselves are written—not to explore an individual bottle’s nuances and subtleties, but as a way to pile up so many non-sequiturs and obiter dictums that it really didn’t matter if I did any research beyond sample guzzling. If I could entertain a single reader—just one—without having to look up halbtrocken, saignée or Pedro Ximénez, I would have considered my mission a success.
Well, you know the term ‘epic fail’, people? I can bear to say no more.
And Just When I Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Worse…
…Along comes the second edition of the Slow Wine: The Guide To Italian Wineries Judged Good, Clean and Fair, set to be unveiled on January 28th in New York City, January 30th in Miami and February 4th in San Francisco.
I won’t be there, and why should I be? The Slow Wine people have taken the remnant of my dream, mashed it up like an overripe banana and jammed it down the throat of a rabid macaque. They’ve hired Islamic sleeper-cell terrorists to wire a mobile phone-operated IED to my testicles, then paged me. In short, they’ve urinated ubiquitously and uncaringly upon my Über-ego.
What did I ever do to them? Nonetheless, according to Marco Bolasco, CEO of Slow Food Editore:
“With Slow Wine we have changed the way of reviewing wine.”
So there you go. Everyone’s always trying to copy me. Twenty years of schlepping schlock to the schmeggegies and the shikkers and some bucatini-bending goombah goes ahead and steals my wine-world-changing thunder in a single press release.
Which, if you believe it, accomplished this (in theory) simply by adopting an approach to wine criticism that ‘looks at a variety of factors to evaluate wineries in their entirety, taking into consideration the wine quality, typicity and adherence to terroir, value for money, environmental sensitivity and ecologically sustainability’.
What this means in practice is that the book has assigned none or more of three ‘innovative symbols’ to evaluate four hundred wineries depending on how hard each place has worked to distinguish itself through its interpretation of sensorial, territorial, environmental and personal values in harmony with the Slow Food philosophy.
The symbols are as follows:
The Snail, the Slow Food symbol, signals a cellar that has met or exceeded all of the anal requirements of the global grassroots organization envisioning a world in which all people can access and enjoy environmentally sustainable wine.
The Bottle is allocated to cellars that show a consistently high quality throughout their range of wines.
The Coin is an indicator of great value.
Hang On While I Call My Lawyers, Slow Wine Guide.
They did copy me. I had this same idea ten years ago when I evaluated over twelve thousand wineries in my first book, ‘I’m Not Really A Drunk, I Just Play One While Watching T.V.’ using… You guessed it… Three symbols for criteria that if not identical, are too close to Slow Wine’s to be mere ‘coincidence’.
But, you judge. My symbols were:
The Wallaby With A Broadhead Stuck In Its Descending Colon: Signals a cellar that insists on foisting bulk garbage onto supermarket shelves with splashy labels, massive advertising campaigns, the useless caché of being ‘imported’ and a price point which, however low, is still way, way too high for what you wind up drinking.
The Randall Grahm: Indicates a winery where the viticultural practices are so whackadoodle that you are forced to question the sanity of the winemaker and ask yourself if such folks should be allowed to walk the streets as free people.
The Scottish Person With His Kilt Pockets Turned Inside Out: Allocated to wineries too cheap to send me free wine, but merely offer me spec sheets and a chance to speak to someone on staff if I have any questions.
Why Do I Go On? Why Do I Even Bother?
I know, right? That’s the downside of late December introspection. Frequently, it occurs to you that really, really great ideas in this fast-track world are so utterly usurpable that you might as well not even bother coming up with them to begin with.
I’m telling you, dear readers, if it wasn’t for the drunk babes in the tasting room, I’d have tossed in the towel long ago.