by Ron Washam

Rejected Entries for “The Oxford Companion to Wine”

I’m feeling a bit disappointed. I just opened the Fourth Edition of “The Oxford Companion to Wine” and not a single one of my entries was published. Admittedly, Jancis Robinson didn’t solicit any contributions from me, but I submitted them anyway. I was certain my well-researched entry on “Overblown Wine Encyclopedias” was going to get in. I’m certainly as qualified as many of the contributors to the OCW4, particularly those who are deceased and must be great fun at the book signings.

On the cover of the OCW4 is a blurb from “The Washington Post” that calls it, “The greatest wine book ever published.” Maybe, though they printed the title sideways on the cover, which seems like kind of a big mistake. But leave it to “The Washington Post” and its wine coverage to be ridiculous. Calling OCW4 “the greatest wine book ever published” is like calling the Yellow Pages “the greatest book on phone numbers ever published!” As though “great” and “comprehensive” are the same thing. “I watched the most comprehensive minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” (That’s from Allen Ginsberg’s great wine poem, “Howl Mountain.”) Though, in truth, being the greatest wine book ever published seems like an especially low bar to get over.

I thought it might be useful to publish my unsolicited entries to OCW4 so that you might print them and staple them into your copy as an addendum. You’re welcome.

Overblown Wine Encyclopedias have proliferated in the past few decades, though, like lobotomies, almost no one needs more than a single one. These encyclopedias are variously labeled “Companion,” “Bible,” “Guide” and “Remainders.” Hugh Johnson wrote the most successful of the earliest Overblown Wine Encyclopedias, “The World Atlas of Wine,” which is now in its fourteenth edition, “Our Doomed World Atlas of Wine.” Mr. Johnson may be a wee bit depressed over climate change. Other Overblown Wine Encyclopedias include Karen MacNeil’s “The Wine Bible,” a book that has deeply devoted fundamentalist followers who actually believe every word to be the truth, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and Richard Dawkins’ “I Don’t Believe in the Wine Bible,” which claims not only is there no God, but terroir is a typo. Soon to be released is the Wall Street Journal’s “Complete Colouring Book of Wine,” written for the simpleminded wine buyer who looks to WSJ for advice in the first place, and in which buyers are urged to “try to stay within the Lyons.” The finest example of Overblown Wine Encyclopedias is Jancis Robinson’s “The Oxford Companion to Wine,” which might more aptly be titled, “The Oxford Morbidly Obese Guy You Have to Push Up the Stairs in His Wheelchair to Wine.”

Anosmia is the abbreviation for an influential association of wine critics over the age of 65, the American Noses Missing in Action. These assembled critics, most of whom are employed by major wine publications and randomly rate wines, gather together once a year to work tirelessly for charity. Auctioning off unsolicited wine samples, Anosmia has raised millions of dollars to help researchers who are developing Nose Viagra. “Nose Viagra™ — for when you just can’t get it up there anymore.”

The Hundred Point Scale is an objective way to measure a subjective experience. A member of Anosmia tastes a wine and proclaims it a number between 1 and 100, though the first 75 numbers are ignored, like at a ToTo concert. That number is intended to be a measure of the wine’s quality, but is, in fact, a measure of the public’s gullibility. 100 points represents a Perfect Sucker. Numbers are arrived at mystically, simply appearing in the Anosmic’s mind, unsummoned, like when he saw his sister naked that time and felt an unwanted tingle. Wine critics often remark something along the lines of, “I know a 95 when I taste one.” Yes, it’s that stupid.

Junkets, otherwise known as Gullible’s Travels, are a way for importers or trade associations to bribe wine buyers and reviewers into writing about their wines and regions in a positive light. Wine writers often pretend objectivity after returning from an all-expense paid junket, but understand that casting their hosts in a negative light will get them removed from future junket lists, otherwise known as Vacation Packages. The believability of a wine writer is in inverse proportion to the number of junkets he has taken. Those who profess independence and objectivity despite taking dozens of junkets are known as Wine-Searcher Contributing Editors and have the credibility of Volkswagen executives. In wine parlance, they are Vin Diesel.

Wine Bloggers are a form of insect that has infested the world of wine and done irreparable harm. They are most closely related to other species of parasites like phylloxera, thrips, and wine-of-the-month clubs. Wine Bloggers are native to North America but have managed to spread throughout the world. Once there is an infestation, there is no effective way to exterminate them, though recently the World Health Organization has released sterile Wine Bloggers into the population and their numbers seem to have decreased, though the sterile ones have begun giving Wine Blog Awards.

Robinson, Jancis is the greatest living wine writer. Often compared to Saintsbury, Peynaud, and Asher, she makes them seem like blithering idiots (see Wine Bloggers). Also known for her great charm and beauty, as well as her devotion to finding a cure for Robert Parker, she has brought her wisdom about wine to the masses. All of wine owes her a massive debt. If stacked in a single pile, the books she has written and/or edited would serve as protection from something sharp hurled by a disgruntled and rejected contributor. If she’s lucky.

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