Tim Atkin | Master of Wine

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2nd Dec 2013

All I want for Christmas

by Ron Washam

 

Dear Santa,

I don’t really want much for myself this Christmas. Oh, I guess there are a lot of material things that part of me craves. I was thinking I could really use a Coravin. I like using needles to enhance pleasure. Who doesn’t? All the wine junkies want one. I hope they remember to sterilize the tip with a match before they stick it in, just like if you were dating a Kardashian. A Coravin is like acupuncture for wine bottles. Slide the needle in, and not long after you feel relaxed. Wine and acupuncture — it’s all about the points!

I think it’s cool that they’re finally using all this advanced medical technology to make something genuinely important and useful, like gizmos for wine boors. Maybe one day someone will invent a wine speculum so that we can taste box wines without opening them. And why isn’t there a colonoscope you can attach to a helmet, like a miner, that helps you read a new Matt Kramer book?

Oh, it doesn’t matter what junk I want, Santa, I’m not writing for personal gain. Every year I write you on behalf of the business I love, the wine business. I’m afraid, Santa. There’s so much fighting. I can’t sleep for all the yelling and name-calling, all the drunken bickering. It’s like judging at a wine competition. What I want for Christmas, Santa, is for you to help me with some things, use your magic powers for the good of wine. I think you’re the only hope.

I’d like for you to stop all these wine business people from arguing about social media, Santa. It’s tearing our wine family apart. And it’s so stupid, because no one cares. Who cares if social media sells wine, or doesn’t? It’s just another sales tool. No one argues about advertising or print reviews or hiring saleswomen with perky gazongas—time-tested wine sales tools. Why do they argue about social media? It just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe social media really does work! And what if it doesn’t? I like that people believe in things that aren’t really real, like numerical scores for wines, and wine auction catalogs. Maybe it’s true that FaceBook and Twitter will sell more and more wine as people turn away from qualified wine critics and begin to discover the wonders of crowd wisdom. It kinda makes sense. Why trust someone you don’t know when you can put your faith in a bunch of imbeciles you do? Wineries might just be wise to hire a company to teach them about social media, but it’s their decision, why do we need to constantly argue? Maybe every winery does need its own personal Fagin. Pickin’ the ignorant public’s pockets just ain’t as easy as some make it look. You need skilled advisors.

Santa, can you just make all the “experts” agree that social media exists, and that anything that a lot of people use is ultimately going to end up shit? Like the subway, or Lindsay Lohan. And that it’s time to stop talking about it? People buy wine, and people love social media, that’s the end of the conversation. Really, social media and wine are the perfect combination. Nothing fuels narcissism like alcohol. Santa, can you make them stop? Please.

And, also, as part of my Christmas wishes, Santa, which I know you’ll do your best to honor because I’ve been good and kind-spirited all year, I’d like you to eliminate a few phrases from the wine conversation, phrases that divide, phrases that are dishonest and just plain wrongheaded. Phrases I’d like never to read in 2014.

May we start with “curate?” Once upon a time, a sommelier “managed” the restaurant wine cellar. Now, in every stunningly stupid profile of a sommelier I read, which is every profile of a sommelier I read, they are said to “curate” a wine list. Curate? You curate for the British Museum. You curate with an eye to importance and history, attempting to be non-judgmental and inclusive in what you collect. You don’t assemble a roomful of paintings that “I really like.” Sommeliers assemble a wine list with the sole purpose of profit. That’s curating like winning a hot dog eating contest is gastronomy. It’s all just part of the insidious and knuckleheaded glorification of the occupation of sommelier. Come on, Santa, you know there’s nothing especially admirable about being a sommelier. A sommelier is a wine salesman, like a fucking “mixologist” is just a pretentious bartender. Go curate a list of important occupations.

And after “curate,” Santa, would it be alright if we got rid of the “Contains Sulfites” label on American wine? Who the hell cares if it has sulfites? It’s the alcohol that will kill you, jackass. While you’re at it, Nick, can I call you Nick?, can you make everyone forget about listing ingredients on wine labels? Most of the people who buy wine still don’t even know what sulfites are! Now you expect them to understand “indigenous yeast?” I can hear them now, “Don’t you have any wine without yeast? I’m allergic to yeast. I get yeast infections. Do you have any cranberry wine?” And I shudder to think about Mega Purple as a listed ingredient. “What is Mega Purple? Barney’s big dinosaur penis?” It was the MADD fanatics who got the “Contains Sulfites” label required on wine bottles. Now it’s the “Natural Wine” proselytizers who want ingredient labeling. Please, Santa, please, can we convince wine folk to stop listening to doomsayers and self-proclaimed saviours? Really, they both just sell fear.

This might be too much to ask for, Santa, I don’t know. You tell me. Will you get rid of “hedonistic” in wine descriptions? It sounds sexy, sounds intelligent, but, in fact, it’s utterly useless as a descriptor. Like Monica Larner. “Hedonistic” means devoted to the pursuit of pleasure. Doesn’t that define every wine? Isn’t calling a wine “hedonistic” like calling it “fermented?” Yeah, it’s wine. So it’s fermented, and hedonistic. Wine is entirely devoted to pleasure. Every wine. Maybe it’s the pleasure of insobriety, maybe it’s the pleasure of history, maybe it’s the pleasure of discovery, maybe it’s the pleasure of slipping into her bedroom after, but it’s devoted to the pursuit of pleasure by definition. I don’t mind people slurring the language because of too much wine, I just wish they’d stop butchering it. That’s enough for 2013, Santa. Thank you in advance. And, really, I don’t need anything for myself. Oh, wait, could you please kill Gordon Ramsay?

Merry Christmas!

HoseMaster of Wine™

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