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Category Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

Cash makes a much better bribe than wine

Winebits 321: NeoDry edition

Cash makes a much better bribe than wineThe Wine Curmudgeon, who spent part of his newspaper career writing politics and grew up in Chicago, thought he knew a few things about corruption. How could anyone not learn from Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell, who died and left $800,000 in cash stuffed in shoe boxes? Or the Mirage Tavern, a sting set up by the Chicago Sun-Times to find out if Chicago’s code inspectors were as crooked as everyone thought? Which, not surprisingly, they were. Or that four of the state’s past seven governors have done time?

As newspaper columnist Mike Royko wrote: “This town was built by great men who demanded that drunkards and harlots be arrested, while charging them rent until the cops came.”

But none of this prepared me for news that politicians and related lifeforms have been caught taking wine in exchange for influence and favors. For one thing, this violates the cardinal rule of bribe taking — don’t leave a paper trail. Cash in an envelope, please, and not wine bottles that can be found by some eager young media type digging through the garbage or a fed poring over a stack of distributor invoices. For another, those Chicago politicians didn’t know wine from water polo. They were shot and beer guys, and it was the real estate developers who gave them the envelopes who drank the wine. And we know about real estate developers.

Nevertheless, an Australian state premier (similar to a governor) was forced to resign after accepting a bottle of Grange, the country’s best wine, worth US$2,800 — after sending the fixer who gave him the bottle a hand-written thank you note. You think Powell ever said thank you, let alone sent a note? Of course not. He just found another shoe box.

A Chinese general, meanwhile, was caught with what the news reports called crates of his country’s Moutai wine (which is closer to a spirit, actually, made with sorghum and not grapes). Given that aged Moutai can go for thousands of dollars a case, the general was no piker, and had also amassed an illicit fortune in real estate. But that didn’t make him Chicago smart — what would the cops think he was doing with all that booze? Shoe boxes, general, shoe boxes. What cop is going to look inside a shoe box?

The lesson here? If you want to bribe someone, use cash. Wine is economically and politically inefficient. How can you be sure someone who takes a payoff in wine is going to stay bought, and not demand a bottle with a higher score? Which is just the kind of thing a politician who wants to be bribed with wine would do.

A tip o’ the Wine Curmudgeon’s fedora to the late Louie Canelakes, a fellow Chicagoan, who was the inspiration for this post.

Second Cheapest Wine

Second Cheapest Wine

Second Cheapest WineThe Wine Curmudgeon has often lamented the quality of wine humor, but here is something that’s not only funny, but entirely too accurate. Consider just these two lines from a fake commercial for a product called Second Cheapest Wine: “You don’t know much about wine, but you do know that you shouldn’t get the cheapest. That’s why we make it easy for you to get the Second Cheapest.”

The bit takes on restaurants, wine snobs, wine education, and wine stores — and all in only 1:19. And with impressive production values. This is so good, in fact, that I should send the authors a copy of the cheap wine book.

So enjoy — Second Cheapest Wine, from CollegeHumor.com, via YouTube:

New features for the blog?

Website
New features for the blog?

Always trying to find the right mix for readers.

Update: Thanks for all the emails — some very good advice and comments about what we’re doing here and how we do it. I was quite flattered to have so many people tell me they didn’t want anyone else to write for the blog.

Still working on the transition from the old platform to the new, and especially with updating the broken links — and we’re only in the seventh month after the switch. The Internet is a wonderful thing, and Google’s search algorithms are even more special.

Having said that, it’s time to continue the blog’s progress into the 21st century, and that means I need your thoughts about the following. If you like the ideas — or don’t like them — leave a comment at the end of this post or send me an email.

• A regular (monthly? every six weeks?) live chat about cheap wine, the wine business, and so forth, where you can come to the blog and ask me questions in real time. You type them in, and I answer. I’ve done this elsewhere, and it’s usually a lot of fun. The catch? What happens if you hold a chat and no one is there to chat?

• Someone besides me writing blog posts. I’m thinking about this not so much because I’m tired of writing the posts but because I’m wondering if another voice — though still focused on what we do here, still objective about wine, and still a quality writer — would add something to the blog. Also, if you’d like to so some writing for the blog, send me an email.

• Wine Curmudgeon TV. I’ve toyed with this before, but the logistics have always been daunting. They aren’t quite as daunting these days, so the question is: Is it worthwhile to do a shortish, 10-minute chat with a guest or guests about wine? And what kind of guests? Because winemaker interviews and features haven’t been all that popular here.

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