The Cynic Vs the Wine Bloggers

Ron-WashamThe Hosemaster of Wine, the wine industry’s real curmudgeon, believes it’s time for professional wine writers (Karen McNeil in Particular) to deliver to wine bloggers a very specific message: “You aren’t any good at what you do and you are unworthy of respect.”

The Hosemaster imagines Karen McNeil addressing the coming Wine Bloggers Conference in this fashion:

“Even if it is what you want to be, I’ve read most of the nominated and award-winning wine blogs, and you don’t have the chops to make it as a wine writer. Your prose is like box wine—a collapsing plastic sack of crap. Reading your wine descriptions is like trimming your nostrils with needlenose pliers—excruciatingly stupid, and a waste of perfectly good tools. I usually wonder if you even tasted the wine, or if you just reworded the back label. I have news for you, back labels are NOT Cliff Notes for wine bloggers. That got you through the JC, but it won’t work as a wine writer.”

Of course The Hosemaster is wrong. And any one who has ever surveyed the wine blogging world over the past decade knows this. The list of very good writers who are or have started as wine bloggers is long and undeniable. What I can’t understand is why anyone would feel compelled to deny this.

Today we get news that Elaine Brown (Hawk Wakawaka) has landed the job of Jancis Robinson’s North American wine reviewer. This comes on the heels of Alder Yarrow (Vinography) also being tapped by Jancis to report on American wines for her thousands of subscribers. This is the tip of the iceberg of quality wine writing and wine reporting and wine reviewing that has emerged from the wine blogosphere. 

It’s possible that The Hosemaster is upset that no Gerald Asher or Hugh Johnson or Leon Adams has emerged from the Wine Blogosphere. Yes, this is a shame. But to disparage an entire group of writers for not birthing an immortal talent seems petty.

In the comment section below his blog post on how bad wine bloggers are, The Hosemaster explains his post by noting that in writing this bit of anti-blogging satire he “used the time-tested comedy convention of having a speaker unexpectedly speak the truth to her audience. A convention best exemplified in the classic SNL skit where William Shatner tells an audience at a Star Trek convention to, “Get a life!”

The problem is that standing up in front of a room full of wine bloggers and telling them they are worthless doesn’t rise to the level of “telling the truth”, expectedly or unexpectedly. 

Cynicism, particularly the well-honed type exhibited by The Hosemaster, is a quality that every thoughtful person ought to possess in at least some moderate quality. But when quality of cynicism overtakes  and overshadows the quality of commonsense you face the problem of tunnel vision.

The Wine Blogging Community is a vibrant one filled with very good writers, very good thinkers, innovators, and people of passion. Ignoring or deny this is nonsensical and indefensible. 


21 Responses

  1. 1WineDude - May 27, 2015

    Tom, you might have missed the part about Ron’s piece being funny…? 😉

    In his defense, there’s plenty of drivel written in the wine blogosphere, as is the case in print, as well. I don’t see it as indefensible to poke fun at that fact. But then, it takes ***quite a bit*** to get me riled up (or even approaching riled up) these days…

  2. Steve - May 27, 2015

    This subject reminds me of my father’s oft used expression: In all this horse excrament there’s gotta be a pony. I guess the trick is finding the ponies.

  3. Tom Wark - May 27, 2015

    Steve,

    There is no problem finding the pony. They have been out there in plain sight for many years: Elaine, Alder, Tyler, Joe, Eve, Chris C, David W., etc, etc, etc…. You have to be looking away to deny the many very good writers who have and are working in the blogosphere.

  4. Tom Wark - May 27, 2015

    Joe:

    Ron was pretty clear that his post was based on the idea that its often funny to unexpectedly tell the truth. I take him on his word.

  5. Catie McIntyre Walker - May 27, 2015

    Ron brings out the best and the worst in all of us – – including himself.

    I remember when I received a wine blog nomination for Best Writer (2010). I was overwhelmed and the nomination meant a lot, whether I won or not. It finally meant a little recognition for hard work, but also something that I enjoy. However, my heart sunk when Ron was also nominated for the same as I knew he would trash the nomination and the nominees, such as myself – – and he did. Unfortunately, he was predictable. The worst part of it all is that I allowed Ron to suck the some of the joy I was feeling about the nomination.

    Later, he would write something that I just swooned over – – and I even quoted it in my own blog. I thought it was one of the best things I had ever read about wine and wine writing,

    “What amazes me is how wonderful and entertaining and fascinating wine itself is, whereas wine writing is, with few exceptions, dreary, pedantic, insipid and repetitive. Perhaps that’s because so much of it revolves around descriptions of aromas and flavors we, as humans, are poorly equipped to perceive, much less express. Wine outmatches us … I intend is to talk about wines that move me. And even after all these years and all those wines, there are wines that can still move me. ”

    After that quote he wrote, I thought it was best never to read his blog again. I guess I never wanted to think any less of a person who was capable of writing something so true and thoughtful, in spite of himself.

    • Bob Henry - February 8, 2017

      Excerpt from Slate
      (Posted June 15, 2007):

      “Cherries, Berries, Asphalt, and Jam.
      Why wine writers talk that way.”

      Link: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/drink/2007/06/cherries_berries_asphalt_and_jam.html

      By Mike Steinberger
      “Drink: Wine, beer, and other potent potables” Column

      In his book “The Taste of Wine,” legendary French oenologist Émile Peynaud elegantly explained the conundrum. “We tasters feel to some extent betrayed by language,” he wrote. “It is impossible to describe a wine without simplifying and distorting its image.” . . .

      • Steve Lay - February 8, 2017

        I once heard a speaker say–everyone is an expert at sex, advertising and airlines. The super bowl certainly justifies the advertising portion. Sex experts are truly in the eye of the beholder I guess. But airlines have long been replaced with “Wine”. We have wine experts in a multitude of areas. But a truly valuable wine expert, in my opinion, is a blogger that dispenses worthy/memorable/useful information and provides entertainment and fun in knowing and presenting wine perspective. Fortunately we all have an opinion and some, not all, are worth what people are willing to pay for them (our opinion).

  6. Charlie Olken - May 27, 2015

    Catie et al—
    Ron has been clear that MOST writing in blogs is inferior, even unprofessional. It is hard to argue with that.

    It is also clear that part of Ron’s shtick is exaggeration, which is a recognized form of parody.

    If one enjoys The Hosemaster, one is forced to take the occasional overreach along with the brilliance. It goes with the territory.

    I think Joe Roberts is a lot closer to the essence of the article than Tom Wark. I have at times objected both publicly and privately about some of Ron’s work. But I like most of it and would no more stop reading The Hosemaster my favorite political commentators because they occasionally get beyond my bounds. It is their jobs to be controversial just as it is Ron’s.

  7. tom merle - May 27, 2015

    In America anyway unless you receive remuneration for an activity, it is inferior to the output of those who do receive compensation for such an activity. You are just engaging in a labor of love, what used to be called a hobby. If your blog is a cut above most other blogs, in a capitalist society you should be receiving compensation like Charlie Olken

    • Bob Henry - May 28, 2015

      “In America anyway unless you receive remuneration for an activity, it is inferior to the output of those who do receive compensation for such an activity. You are just engaging in a labor of love, what used to be called a hobby. …”

      My footnote to a comment I left on this wine blog:

      http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2015/05/27/whither-wine-writing-hosemasters-post-makes-me-think/

      [BY DEFINITION, A “PROFESSIONAL” IS PAID FOR HIS/HER WORK (PROFESSION). IF YOU ARE NOT PAID FOR YOUR WORK, YOU ARE BY DEFINITION AN “AMATEUR.” THE WEB IS TURNING PROFESSIONAL WRITERS INTO UNCOMPENSATED “AMATEURS.”]

  8. Tom Heller - May 27, 2015

    Is this inside baseball, a circle jerk, or just bitchiness, how effenin boring, somebody please explain this to me. Seems to me you are just talking to yourselves, and nobody cares

  9. Mike Dunne - May 27, 2015

    I want to know the identity of the wine industry’s fake curmudgeon. You teased, but you didn’t deliver. The HoseMaster, on the other hand, did. His message, as I take it, is that there is too much shallowness and pandering in the wine blogosphere, among other shortcomings. Occasionally, a writer who pays his or her dues with integrity and clarity will get the recognition they’ve earned, such as Elaine Brown. As a hopefully helpful panelist at last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference, I nonetheless was stung by the ensuing sexism, racism and ageism that our comments prompted from the assembled bloggers. I went because I saw aspiration and energy in some of their efforts to write creatively and encouragingly of wine, but came away convinced that the game for many is a lark, that they are in it for the side benefits. Incidentally, I think you confuse cynic with skeptic. And I would not be surprised if Karen MacNeil comes close to delivering the kind of speech that the HoseMaster envisions. At the Wine Writers Symposium earlier this year she gave an exceptionally intimate talk that spoke to the real dedication and confidence that any writer needs.

  10. Thomas Pellechia - May 28, 2015

    Thank you, Mike Dunne, for pinning it exactly.

    Tom, I love you, but you have a major blind spot. You take the exception and claim it is the rule–Ron does it the other way round.

  11. Tom Wark - May 28, 2015

    I don’t think I do, Thomas. I think that there are a very large number of wine bloggers who are very good at what they do. I think that there are a number of wine bloggers that have given voice to a perspective that never existed before. I think the great wine writers in America can be counted on two hands and the rest fall into the middle and bottom. I think that most wine writers fall into the middle where most non-bloggers fall. Ron’s characterization of most or all bloggers being shit does not come off as comedy because he rarely shines the light on those that do a very good job. I could list a very large number of bloggers who are very good at giving consumers of various levels interesting and useful information as well as those that give the trade audience the same. I think it is way to easy to paint the independent wine blogger with the kind of large brush that Ron uses. And I think he knows that. Yet he does it.

    • 1WineDude - May 28, 2015

      Tom, Ron can chime in here himself I suppose, but he and I have discussed many times that he primarily satirizes people with talent. So in a way, he is, actually, shining a light on those who are doing it well (it’s just not in a voice that everyone likes; and satire, historically, has proven to be difficult to like by many).

      I know that Ron’s HMW voice pisses a lot of folks off, and I am not dismissing those reactions, but as a student of English literature I love the role of the satirist (and consider it necessary), so I tend to forgive it. We have other voices and methods for doing the praising.

      • Thomas Pellechia - May 28, 2015

        That’s right, Joe.

        Tom: describe “very large number of” “very good at what they do” “a number of” “given voice to a perspective” “great wine writesr in America” “most wine writers”.

        The above are noncommital qualifiers in broad brush style; that’s PR-speak, but it does not “shine the light on those that do a very good job.”

        Who decides when a writer or blogger does a “very good job?” Also, define which job and how one does a very good one on a blog.I really have no idea what you are talking about.

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