Magazine Review: Grape Disappointment

For years, I got Newsweek as a free premium for giving money to Chicago Public Radio. Having a subscription to Newsweek for the last decade was exactly like the time my grandfather hit himself in the balls showing me how to yo-yo. It was painful, and there was a moment when you realize that the old guy wasn’t as nimble as he used to be, but it was also funny enough that I can still hear the noise he made when wood yo-yo met Papa’s crotch: “hoooooo….”  Newsweek just kept hitting itself in the balls, devolving eventually into a distance learning catalog with a few editorials thrown in. When it went all digital, I didn’t even bother to transfer my subscription.

Now I get Wine Spectator. I suppose I could just turn down the magazine my munificent low three figure gift entitles me to, but like any good American, I like free stuff. Except of course free freedom. Because freedom isn’t free. Operation Enduring Freedom has cost about $500 billion so far. Maybe we should give Afghanistan magazines. They’ll have something to read on the toilet, and the magazines will have increased circulation. Everyone wins, unlike our current plan. Barry, you’re welcome.

I figured Wine Spectator would have some interesting lifestyle/ travel pieces or recipes. I haven’t been this wrong about something since I spoke up on behalf of Use Your Illusions II as a meritorious artistic work in a college music class. Wine Spectator, it turns out, is a magazine for crazy people (of the type I’ve written about previously). There’s nothing lifestyle about Wine Spectator, unless your lifestyle was previously washing your hands 200 times a day or slowly pulling your own hair out. This is a magazine for batshit stalker John Hinckleys, but for wine instead of Jodie Foster.  The strange thing is that the magazine for wine obsessives has a lot in common with magazines for people obsessed with celebrities:

1. An insistence that you’re not crazy because famous, beautiful  people and you have a lot in common. You may be aware that Us Weekly runs a feature called “Stars Are Just Like Us.” This features boring photos of Lindsay Lohan on the beach, showing that just like you, Ms. Lohan has pasty white thighs. You can also see a picture of someone named Robin Thicke at a playground. This will make you feel better, because he has a wanker haircut – just like you! In Wine Spectator they feature a celebrity who – wait for it – likes wine! How rare. What the two magazines have in common is the elastic use of the term “celebrity.” My first issue featured the king of late 90’s mid-tempo Dockers rock, Rob Thomas. Apparently, he is still alive and making “music.” During the production of his latest album, he drank wine! Just like you when you worked on that project that no one gave a crap about! (Oddly enough, Rob Thomas described his favorite wines as “smooth,” noting that they were “just like the ocean under the moon.”)

2. Use of bizarre language that’s only intelligible to your fellow head cases and your neighbor’s homicidal mind-controlling dog. Would you want to drink something that tasted of leather and tar? No? You clearly don’t know wine. Sure, it’s probably what the toe of my shoe tastes like, but it’s also just two qualities of a good Chardonnay. Another wine was described as being “round and fleshy.” Surprisingly, the name of the wine was not “Newt Gingrich’s Big Fat Face.” I just read a Glamour review of some dress Gwyneth Paltrow wore as being “the stuff of legend.” Legend! There’s Arthur and Guinevere, Helen of Troy, and The Sideboob.

3. Maintaining the yin-yang of columns contradicting previous columns. In my careful research, celebrity magazines will often feature an article called something like “Six Steps for Killer Glutes.” The next week, there will be a feature called “Six Things That Will Make Your Ass Look Like A Fallen Souffle.” These will be the exact same six things. My first issue of Wine Spectator featured a column making a bold argument for twist-off caps. After years of insisting that fine wine be corked, now it can be sealed in the same way as Boone’s Farm or Arizona Iced Tea? Where’s the cache, the flair, the aw-nuts-there’s-little-chunks-of-wood-in-my-drink beauty in a metal cap? I’m waiting for the rebuttal in the next issue “Twist-offs: For Lazy Posers.”

The above are comments on the editorial content, and it must be said that fully half the magazine is nothing more than pages of rankings listed in tightly packed columns. Are we to imagine that somewhere in a Pottery Barn-bedecked McMansion a salt and peppered gentleman is running his finger down the columns and is suddenly crestfallen  because his beloved ’06 Honig Scab only scored a 90? There’s nothing else this guy could be doing, like spending time with with botulism- or pneumatically- enhanced wife (depending on whether she’s his first or second)? I am basing this scene on the fact that Wine Spectator is written by and for men, and originates in the same universe as Cialis commercials, where women 20 years your junior are always trying to get in your pants even though – or perhaps because – you look like Dennis Franz.

Maybe the wine enthusiast just needs to diversify, perhaps by subscribing to Wine Spectator’s sister publication Whisky Advocate. While wine allows one to passively act as spectator, whiskey clearly requires that one actively serve as an advocate on it’s behalf.  It’s like the man said:

First they came for the vodka, and I did not speak out–
Because I did not drink vodka.

Then they came for the tequila, and I did not speak out–
Because I did not drink tequila.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me, because all I do is talk about alcohol all the time and who wants to spend time with that guy?

 

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