Literal wine list

13 November 2017

[in progress]

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Parkerized

30 January 2015

It’s easy to make fun of the wine-critic word salad Robert Parker invented, all layers & ripeness & things leaping from glasses–easy, too, to talk about ‘Parkerized’ wines, the style of winemaking that he is said to represent. Did he do a service, when he began to write about wine for Americans stressed out over buying $40 birthday presents for their bosses in more or less the same way that Consumer Reports reviews washing machines? In a very specific, very real way: yes. Has the idea of rating an idiosyncratic, living agricultural product in the same way as a washing machine done measurable harm? Well, yes.

And in the decades that have followed, and with all of the objections to for example the point system pretty much canon now, the wines that he got most enthusiastic over and the way he wrote about that enthusiasm have been caricatured so thoroughly that sometimes instead of attempting to parrot received wisdom it really truly is instructive to just survey & report. To put in another way: I could not write a better parody of Robert Parker’s prose, or describe the kinds of wines I’m told he liked, better than presenting his own writing with as little commentary as possible.

I came across this particular collection of text while looking for something more or less unrelated. (How a particular vintage of a modernist Barolo producer was received a decade and a half ago, if you’re curious.) So! Here are some words & phrases used by Robert Parker when he likes something. They appear, all of them, exactly as written, on a single page of his 2002 Buyers Guide. A dozen or so wines, all told. And without me saying anything more, maybe you can decide for yourself what he values in a bottle of wine, and what kind of things he likes to drink, and how he likes to write about drinking them:

up-front, sexy
sexy, in-your-face
a provocative bouquet
a luxurious bouquet
a hedonistic, explosive nose
big sweet perfume
voluptuous
blockbuster
supple and velvety
velvety and forward
ripe, and attractive
aromas jump from the glass
flavors cascade over the palate
Powerfully, unctuously textured
awesomely layered texture
with additional levels of glycerin and flavor
layers of glycerin
stunningly concentrated
fabulously concentrated
decadent level of richness
Pomerol-like lushness
Full-bodied, ripe
Full-bodied-and lush
opulent, lush, fleshy
fleshy and flamboyant
sexy, hedonistic, seamless
Rich, full, fat, opulent, and decadent
copious spice, glycerin, and alcohol
fleshy, and flamboyant, with huge glycerin levels
this textured, full-bodied, fat, lush wine.

Profusion

25 October 2014

“The sheer profusion of qualities that Americans discovered in the apple during its seedling heyday is something to marvel at, especially since so many of those qualities have been lost in the years since. I found apples that tasted like bananas, others like pears. Spicy apples and sticky-sweet ones, apples sprightly as lemons & others rich as nuts. I picked apples that weighed more than a pound, others compact enough to fit into a child’s pocket. Here were yellow apples, green apples, spotted apples, russet apples, striped apples, purple apples, even a near-blue apple. There were apples that looked prepolished & apples that wore a dusty bloom on their cheeks. Some of these apples had qualities that were completely lost on me but had meant the world to people once: apples that tasted sweeter in March than October, apples that made especially good cider or preserves or butter, apples that held their own in storage for half a year, apples that ripened gradually to avoid a surfeit or all at once for an easier harvest, apples with long stem or short, thin skin or thick, apples that tasted sublime only in Virginia and others that needed a hard New England frost to reach perfection, apples that reddened in August, others that held off til winter, even apples that could sit at the bottom of a barrel for the six weeks it took a ship to get to Europe, then emerge bright and crisp enough to command a top price in London.”

The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan (p. 48–49) touring the Lake Geneva Plant Genetic Resources Unit.

November’s facts

2 December 2013

fact checking in action

Fact-checking detritus from various freelance assignments last month, culled from a lifetime in service to the truth.

From Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing: “Raised in a Kauai geodesic dome by two surfing parents, Keala Kennelly has an untouchable reputation as the sport’s most fearless tuberider. […] Breaking rank from the girlish ‘surfette’ look that all but defined women’s surfing in the ’90s and early ’00s, Kennelly was a leather-clad and tongue-studded nightclubber who moonlighted as a DJ and often looked, as surf journalist Alison Berkeley put it, like ‘a sinister Disney cartoon character.’”

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Indexes

18 September 2013

card catalogs, NYPL
Room 100, including card catalogs, 1923. New York Public Library Archives.

I like book indexes because of the tantalizingly incomplete sense they give of a large, impossible object broken down into its constituent parts. And because I like lists of words.

Anyway I was at the wine store the other day paging through the Jancis Robinson-edited Oxford Companion to Wine (it is as crazy authoritative as the title would suggest), and next to the introduction there’s a two-page double-column list of 300 new entries added to the third edition. If you like, it gives a rough sense of how the canonical wine world might have changed between 1999 and 2006—you know, black-magic big industrial processes in commercial production on the one hand (plastic corks, reverse osmosis, flavour scalping, Yellowtail), formerly forgotten regions, young new wine drinkers, and nerdy, nearly-extinct indigenous grapes brought back from the dead on the other (Lacrima Nera, Xinomavro, vegetarian & vegan wine). Also, the Internet: websites finally have an entry! Did I mention I like lists of words? Like so:

Asian Lady Beetle
black dead arm
California sprawl
Denmark
diotomaceous earth
direct shipping
flavour scalping
glassy winged sharpshooter
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Kangaroo Island
Lacrima Nera
macèration pelliculaire
methoxy-dimethylpyrazine
Myanmar
philosophy & wine
plastic corks
reverse osmosis
Smaragd
umami
vegetarian & vegan wine
websites
Xinomavro
Yellowtail

He’s like the x of y.

23 August 2013

All taken from the New York Times and Washington Post. Answers below.

01. He’s like the Tocqueville of the culinary world.

02. He’s like the Beethoven of cocktails.

03. He’s like the Ingmar Bergman of poetry.

04. He’s like the Pluto of talk shows.

05. He’s like the Lou Gehrig of Stalingrad.

06. He’s like the John McCain of action heroes.

07. He’s just like the Muhammad Ali of horse racing.

08. He’s like the Cal Ripkin Jr. of NYPD spokesmen.

09. He’s like the Sheryl Crow of now.

10. He’s almost like the Zelig of homeless people.

11. He’s becoming like the Keith Richards of content.

12. He’s the Paul Newman of American presidents.

____________________

a) Spanish chef José Andrés *
b) Muslim mixologist Mojnu Hoque *
c) Tomas Tranströmer, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature *
d) Carson Daly *
e) Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev *
f) Chuck Norris *
g) Jockey Edgar S. Prado *
h) NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne *
i) John Mayer *
j) Matthew Eckstine, stepson of jazz singer Billy Eckstine *
k) Merlin Bronques of LastNightsParty dot com *
l) Barack Obama *

Some lists

3 August 2013

Languages heard by fewer people in the world combined than Dothraki, the invented language of Game of Thrones nomads: Yiddish, Navajo, Inuit, Basque, Welsh.

Languages into which Georges Perec’s lipogrammatic La Disparition has been translated while preserving the constraint: German (Anton Voyls’ Fortgang); English (A Void, Vanish’d!, A Vanishing); Italian (La scomparsa); Spanish (El secuestro, no ‘a’); Dutch (‘t Manco); Swedish (Försvinna); Turkish (Kayboluş); Russian (Исчезание, no ‘o’); Japanese (En-metsu).

Nicknames of Charles Dickens’ children: the Snodgering Bee; Lucifer Box; Mild Glo’ster; Young Skull; Chickenstalker; Skittles; Ocean Spectre; the Jolly Postboy; Plorn.

Old-school newspapers: the Bee, the Comet; Press-Scimitar, Post-Intelligencer, Times-Picayune; the Argus, the Watchman, the Vigilant.

Old-school baseball teams: the Des Moines Prohibitionists, the Chicago Uniques, the Milwaukee Creams; the Spokane Bunchgrassers, the Kalamazoo Celery Pickers; the La Crosse Pinks, the Regina Bone Pliers.

Family cars: Adventure Van; Petunia Vader; Speedy Alice; Princess Buttercup; Bruce; Bonnie a.k.a. Hellfire Avenger.

Ways to call someone a wet blanket: aguafiestas; ponurak; rabat-joie; Miesmacher; ξενέρωτος; مفسد البهجة; guastafeste.

Marianne Moore’s suggestions for a new Ford Motor Company model, 1935: the Resiliant Bullet, the Intelligent Whale; Aeroterre, Pastelogram, Thunderblender; Utopian Turtletop.