Posts Filed Under commentary
It’s with some hesitation that I mention to you that I was recently quoted in a Metro.us article about my thoughts on the rebranding efforts of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, most of which were probably too obscenity-laden to print.
I’m not hesitant about the article itself, mind you, but I am hesitant about giving the PLCB any more attention at all, at this point. Primarily because there’s no love lost between me and the PLCB.
Actually, there’s no love between me and the PLCB, period. I hate the PLCB.
My friend Lew Bryson, also quoted in the article, puts it best when he describes the PLCB attempting to rebrand itself: “lipstick on a pig.”
To adequately describe how utterly f*cked up the situation regarding alcohol sales is under the state-run PLCB monopoly here in PA, I refer you to PA Rep. Adam Harris’s comments in a December HeraldMailMedia.com article, in which he describes PA liqour reform legislation that went into effect in 2016:
“…the two key components that most people will notice is that they allowed for the sale of wine in grocery stores and other outlets and, beginning in mid-January, beer distributors will be able to sell down to the single unit, including allowing for mix-and-match sales of six packs.”
Eighty-three years after the end of Prohibition in the USA, Pennsylvania residents can buy wine and beer in the same way that most other states have already allowed for decades. Maddeningly, almost incomprehensibly, that is touted as progress under the PLCB and monopoly system in PA. Nothing is said, of course, of the issues with prices, how in-state wine producers’ products are treated, overall selection, shipping limitations, store employee knowledge-levels, and quality of service; because, hey, you’re allowed to mix a six pack now!
The PLCB remains a nightmare for knowledgeable PA wine consumers, who will only constitute a growing number of the population, given how easily wine product information is disseminated and consumed in our current, ultra-competitive wine market. And the fact that it remains such an anachronistic but powerful body in that market ought to scare the entire wine segment, at least a little bit, because no monopoly is going to make doing business easy on the back-end (there just isn’t enough incentive for mutuality – think about it).
It’s long past time to retire this dinosaur, and privatize the tiers of the alcohol business in PA; not just for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s residents, but quite probably for the benefit of the entire wine industry.
Americans flipping the bird to the rest of the world
I travel the world. A lot.
For example, I was in Chile when Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America (and yes, I voted by mail before I’d left for the trip).
Since Trump’s election, I’ve traveled to other countries, all for wine-biz-related stuff, and the same question keeps being asked to me by well-meaning but concerned members of the wine biz. The same two questions, actually.
- How the f*ck did that just happen?!??
- What do you think Trump’s presidency means for the wine business?
I’m not only unequipped to answer the first question, I don’t think that, if I were, I’d have a decent, coherent explanation anyway (see the attempts by everyone else).
Regarding answering the second, I’ve got some good news/bad news for you. This is what I’ve been answering to everyone posing that second question to date:
Probably not much.
Since that seems a little (too) brief, I feel compelled to go into the details. But trust me, they won’t get us much further along the path to a viable answer…
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Crom’s chosen candidate!
A good number of people, both within the USA and abroad, read this blog. At times, that includes a lot of the U.S. wine biz, but also many wine lovers and wine insiders abroad. This post is dedicated to all of them.
Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat this, things have been pretty f*cked up since the 2016 presidential election concluded. Yes, a minority of the population of largely white voters actually replaced a wildly popular sitting president with someone who has never held public office, and has an at-best questionable truth-telling record, among many other distasteful episodes of past behavior. Given Clinton’s shaky popularity, and Trump’s, well, everything, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Conan the barbarian” was written in as a viable alternative on a not-insignificant number of ballots this year.
Sadly, there have been crazies emboldened by the outcome of this recent election; I myself had to Facebook-block a few people, the most abusive of which was a Navy serviceman, which is just profoundly messed up. Even sadder, wine writer Eric Asimov was harassed online, presumably because being Jewish, American, and outspoken is somehow viewed as wrong by a very demented few.
So, yeah, when wine writers – a demographic about whom almost nobody should really care passionately unless they have a glass of vino in hand – are getting harassed, then things are definitely very, very f*cked up. While I certainly understand the need for some drinking right now (two nice recommendations on that coming up soon), I don’t think that the results of the recent election should send anyone into total panic mode. Deep concern, yes; panicked terror, no.
Why not? Because America has faced worse adversity than the political divisions that currently plague us, and we’ve always come out better for those experiences; maybe not immediately, but certainly better in the long run.
The president-elect ran on a campaign slogan to make America great again. Having traveled to and/or worked with people in Canada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the UK, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Austria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Russia, India, China, and Australia (and that’s not a complete list), I have a bit of a global perspective. And nothing against any of those wonderful places, but there is nowhere that I would rather live than the USA. America is, was, and almost certainly always will be great, not because an elected official tells us so, but because we are a nation that recognizes that we are consistently made better through increased diversity and tolerance, and I have faith that, as such a nation, we have come too far along that path for our course to be permanently diverted. Distracted and delayed, maybe, but not diverted.
At our heart, we’re a band of fighters; we don’t capitulate. Our greatness – our true greatness as a nation – lies in our goodness, and our goodness is almost always in direct proportion to our support of one another, no matter their gender/sexuality/creed/etc.
Hopefully, we can all drink to that; and I’ve got just the wines (from the sample pool) with which to start…
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By now, many of you will have heard of, read about, and/or actually watched the documentary Bitter Grapes, a film that examines harsh conditions for workers in some areas of the South African wine industry.
The Washington Post has an excellent summary of the film, its impacts on the image of South African wine worldwide, and the response by the region’s wine trade:
“Danish journalist Tom Heinemann… found that some workers were allegedly being paid less than the minimum wage, exposed to pesticides, consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol and discouraged from joining unions, among other problems.”
The WP piece also puts the film’s findings in important context: like the USA, South Africa doesn’t exactly have a great humanitarian record when it comes to how farm workers were treated in the past. In more recent history, there was the terrible “dop” system (now illegal), under which S. African workers were paid partially in wine.
I’m not here to discuss the implications of the documentary, though for sure I have opinions on those given my past visits to South Africa’s wine country.
What I want to talk about is the Wines of South Africa (WOSA, the promotional body for the region’s wine business) response to Bitter Grapes. Because their response tastes a lot like sour grapes to me…
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