The 2016 Curmudgies: Given annually to everyone who made wine more difficult to enjoy
Welcome to the 2016 Curmudgies, the fifth time we’ve given the awards to the people and institutions that did their best over the previous 12 months to make sure wine remained confusing, difficult to understand, and reserved for only the haughtiest among us.
This year’s winners:
• Worst news release: This year, the award goes to the wine PR business, for something even worse than its grammatically and factually pathetic news releases. This year, it gets the dishonor for the new and decidedly annoying habit of asking me what I thought about the wine they sent me. There is, of course, nothing wrong with asking. The catch – and the reason for the award – is that many of them get angry with me if I don’t like the wine, and I’ve gotten some surprisingly snotty emails in response to my response. This is completely unprofessional. First, I’m allowed to have an opinion that is different from the talking points their client gave them, and second, I’m not here to parrot the talking points, but to offer an objective view of the wine.
• The regional wine award, or the more things change, the more they stay the same: I’ve written several times this year that regional wine seems to have become an accepted part of the wine business. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop ABC’s John Oliver from ripping Long Island wine. This is the mother-in-law joke theory, where you’re playing to a stereotype. Long Island wine is more than respectable — just ask Eric Asimov at the New York Times, who may know a little more about the wines than Oliver.
• The three-tier system is our friend award: To the New York State Liquor Authority, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the retailer Empire Beverages. I can’t even begin to explain what has happened over the past 12 months, which has included lawsuits, counter-lawsuits, regulatory rulings, appeals of regulatory rulings, and two vetoes by the governor of a bill that would have clarified the mess. Suffice it to say, if we treated wine like any other consumer good, none of this would have happened, the republic would still be intact, and it would be easier to buy wine in New York.
• The Wine Spectator will always be the Wine Spectator: This year, the honor goes to the editors who put together the Nov. 20, 2016 Hot Wines section of the Wine Spectator Insider, setting a record for unavailability that will be difficult to beat. How many cases of five of the six wines are for sale in the U.S? Try 421 total – 6, 35, 40, 100 and 250, making them all but impossible to buy. This assumes you could afford to, since the cheapest is $150. Why does the Spectator review wines that no one can buy? If you have to ask, you don’t know why this Curmudgie exists. (And a tip ‘o the WC’s fedora to Kyle Schlachter, who passed this gem my way.)
• Would someone please listen to this person? The positive Curmudgie, given to someone who advances the cause of wine sensibility despite all of the obstacles in their way. The winner this year is Jerry Lockspeiser, author of “Your Wine Questions Answered” – 25 answers to the most common wine questions. Jerry’s book is straightforward, easy to understand, and funny, all of which are in short supply in wine. “Many people find buying wine difficult.” he writes. “This is not because they are stupid. The meaning of the words is not clear, the language is complex, and the flavour is a mystery. It is hardly surprising that confusion and anxiety are common. We would probably buy more, with greater enjoyment of doing so, if the people who sell wine made it easier to understand.”