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Category Archives: Wine rants

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:

Cheap wine can be intimidating

winerant
Cheap wine can be intimidating

OMG, $5 wine!

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? That cheap wine can be intimidating, given that cheap wine’s reason for being is that it’s approachable in a way more expensive wine isn’t. But too many wine drinkers who won’t buy a wine because it’s too expensive are also wary of buying a wine because it doesn’t cost enough.

The Wine Curmudgeon saw this again over the weekend, when a couple of old pals came to visit. They are far from wine snobs, and revel in finding value in cheap wine. But when I recommended the $5 Vina Decana from Aldi, one of them looked at me and asked, “But it only costs $5. How can it be any good?”

Fortunately, I am resilient in the face of adversity (as well as very stubborn). We went to Aldi, bought the wine, tasted it, and all was well. This experience reminded me, despite all of the progress we have made with cheap wine over the past decade, how much wine business foolishness we still have to overcome.

Yes, many of us have spent years proselytizing for cheap wine, and the improvement in cheap wine quality has been well documented. But we’re bucking a 50-year-old system that told wine drinkers that cheap wine wasn’t worth drinking, and that very cheap wine was even less worthy of their attention. This has been the point of wine education since the first wine boom in the 1970s, that price equalled quality. It was only sometimes true then, and it’s even less true today. Which is why it’s more important than ever to taste the wine before you judge it, no matter how difficult that may be.

Hence the idea of $4 or $5 wine, despite the success of Two-buck Chuck, is still something pink and sweet that comes in a box and is bought by old ladies with cats. That this isn’t especially accurate any more doesn’t seem to matter in the rush to upsell consumers to $15 and $20 wine that doesn’t necessarily taste any different, but is more hip and with it. Chloe, anyone?

Also, the continued need for people like me, as much as there shouldn’t be. Fortunately, I enjoy the work.

Image courtesy of Hagerstenguy via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license

 

 

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