(image: deviantart.com & leinz.co.uk – seriously edited by Dude)
The follow excerpt is taken from an newly unearthed document, titled “The PLCB Manifesto” found unearthed under an old shed during a septic tank excavation in the outskirts of the PA state capital of Harrisburg. Or maybe not.
A spectre is haunting Pennsylvania — the spectre of Monopoly Wine Sales. All the Powers of old PA have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Wine Maker and Consumer, Retailer and Oenophile, Chester Radicals and Philadelphian “grape-spies.”
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as Monopolistic by its opponents in power? Where is the Opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of Wine Monopolies, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
The history of all hitherto existing Wine Sales is the history of class struggles.
Grape-grower and glass sipper, wine retailer and booze purchaser, vineyard owner and restaurant-goer – in a word, dumb and dumber – stood in constant opposition to One Wine Retailer, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary non-re-constitution of the wine industry at large, or in the common miasma of free trade…
The on-line wine-buyer, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all child safety, and familial idyllic relations. It … has left remaining no other nexus between vine and drinker than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment” … for so-called fair prices, veiled by free trade illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation … Constant revolutionizing of interesting new wine styles & lower prices due to evil competition, uninterrupted disturbance of all monopoly conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the free trade epoch from all earlier ones … All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober (ha-ha) senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his vines.
When, in the course of development, wine choice and free trade in wine buying have disappeared, and all wine sales have been concentrated in the hands of One Monopoly Association of the whole state of PA, the public power will lose its political character. If the wine buyer populace during its contest with free and fair trade & competition in wine sales is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class. Uh… wait a second, not sure I follow myself on that last sentence.
Anyway, we control your wine choices. We control your wine prices. We have limited your wine buying options because we know you best, we are here to protect you from the menace of free trade, fair prices, buying power, choice, and the deviance of competetion!
OH! GLORIOUS PLCB! DEFENDER OF WINE MONOPOLIES!
Alright, alright, alright – so it’s been a rough week, and rougher weekend, and Dude ended up totally missing last weeks’ edition of W4. Maybe he had one too many brewskis. And maybe made some bad decisions at the bar while jammin’ with his band homies.
Let’s just agree to get over this awkward moment together, and continue with our professional relationship as blogger and reader, OK? Cool.
I give you the “Hey, What Happened To Last Week’s Edition?” Edition of W4…
“When the Dust Has Cleared… And Victory Denied…”
When I say it was a rough week, I mean it – especially for our friends who are fighting the good fight against the three tier, monopolistic wine distribution industry. Wine and Liquor Wholesalers poured their big bucks into beating back legislation that would have allowed on-line wine sales in both Tennessee and Maryland. Never mind that both the public and the wineries of those states supported the legislation – what do they know about wine and the needs of wine consumers anyway, right? Obviously fear-monger organizations like StopTeenDrinkingTN.org know more and need to protect TN citizens from themselves. You can read about them on their “About Us” page – by the way, it doesn’t mention that the TN wine and spirits wholesalers lobby likely funded their website (the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association is the major coalition member). Pathetic.
Robot Bee Wine Tasters (You can’t make this sh*t up!)
By far my favorite news article of the week. Australian researches are testing bees’ noses to give them insights into how to develop robots that can sniff out quality wine. Since it’s a small animal that lives in Australia, I’m assuming the bees are poisonous (hey – even the platypus has venom, people).
Single, Ginormous & Ubiquitous On-Line Retailer Seeks Wine Buyer. Did I Mention I’m Finally Profitable?
If you need a job, Information week reports that Amazon is looking for a wine buyer. Yes, that Amazon. But there’s talk of Amazon’s wine foray actually being a deeper partnership with Wine.com (who everybody loves to hate at the moment for their spurious actions in selling out their competitors to state governments, Communist-China-style).
A Case of Indian Sour Grapes
I’m not sure why I was drawn to this article from the Business Standard – I just found it interesting that India is now getting into the wine competition thing. Once we get the calm, meditation-&-yoga oriented cultures to become anal-retentive, competitive A-types like the rest of us, the world is sure to become a better place, right?
(images: allposters.com, paddlinginstructor.com, 4hisglory.wordpress.com, dogchannel.com)
Let’s face it. There are just some situations where our favorite pastime – drinking the vino – just isn’t appropriate.
Religious retreats, Amish barn-raisings, and Rehab all come to mind.
Think that because you can’t imbibe the vino, you’re missing out on opportunities to up your Wine IQ?
Here are three sure-fire ways to increase your wine appreciation – without having to pop a single cork…
1) Get out the map.
Wine connects you to a place. Sometimes (usually when it’s inexpensive) it’s a big swath of country; other times (when it’s so expensive that it’s on allocation to the billionaires among you who own your own islands), it’s a tiny plot of land in Burgundy.
Since wine connects you to a location on the planet, the more you know about that location the more your appreciation for that place’s wine can grow. When you’re traveling, spend some time to learn about the culture, history, and geography of that area. When you’re at home, crack open a decent atlas and soak in some knowledge about someplace far, far away.
Remember that the vino embodies a unique combination of a place’s soil, its climate, and the culture of winemaking that helped along the miracle of turing that grape juice into the stuff in your glass. When you’re back to your normal wine-tasting environment, try some wines from the places that you just learned about – you just might get an instant and intimate connection with that spot of the world through that wine.
2) Get cookin’.
I have friends who like to cook, and are pretty darned great at it, too, which has exposed Dude here to cuisine he would never have had the pleasure of grubbing if he had stuck to his bachelor life. And you know what? Exposure to varied ingredients and cooking styles had made Dude a better wine taster.
Why? For one thing, regional cuisine is a function of regional culture, and in many parts of the wine world, a region’s wines and its food have evolved together to compliment one another (check out the book Vino Italiano for a good example of this). For another, exposure to different cooking styles and foods builds up your flavor and aroma chops – essential stuff for tasting and describing the myriad of tastes and smells that a good wine can serve up.
I’m not sure how many amazing cook books are out there, but some of my faves can be found at this link. Pick a recipe, fire up the grill, and get cookin’!
3) Hit the books.
Can’t taste? Then read.
Reading about wine, its amazing history, its incredible variety, and the charismatic & entertaining personalities that have forged its destiny… well, you can’t help but to be awed, people.
I’ve got a Top 10 list of wine appreciation books, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a plethora of books on the market that explore wine from angles besides just how to taste it – its impacts on philosophy, its affect on modern culture, its mysterious origins, and the human side of its story throughout world history, for starters.
You could, quite literally (ha-ha), read about wine every evening and deepen your appreciation for (and knowledge of) it for several years without ever getting bored.
But it’s more fun to do it with a glass of vino in hand.
For Wine Blogging Wednesday #43 (this round hosted over at the fine WineLifeToday blog), we’ve been asked to review a “Comfort Wine” – and to explain why, like a good comfort food, this wine evokes some special, relaxing, or good-ol’-down-home feeling for us.
First, let’s start with my comfort wine. Then I’ll lay the story on you – and to give you fair warning, this time the story is a bit intense. But I think it will be worth the read.
The wine is Chateau Cabrieres Chateauneuf Du Pape. As always, Dude will provide a bit of history (and then a bit of his story).
CDP (as wine geeks like to call Chateauneuf Du Pape) is a region in the Southern Rhone valley of France, it’s name means “New House of the Pope” and stems from the 14th century (when Pope Clement V relocated the Holy See to France – a fascinating story in and of itself if you’ve got time to read it). CDP wines still bear the French papal insignia on their bottles.
CDP doesn’t so much have soil as it has rock. The vines literally grow through large stones called galets, which absorb the daytime heat and reflect it back on the growing grapes in the cooler evenings (and help with moisture retention when things get really dry in the summertime). The result is that the grapes get pretty ripe, pretty fast. And when I say grapes – as in plural – I mean it: up to 13 varietals are permitted in the red blends from the region, though these days the majority percentages are given to Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.
CDP generally gets a bad rap among the wine geek crowd, because the winemaking is generally prone to Brett (short for Brettanomyces, a yeast that adds complexity but can lead to overly mousy flavors if not kept in check). Also, the wines are not terribly food-friendly due to their lower acidity. And to top it all off, CDPs often go through a “dumb” period in their development, where they temporarily lose their vibrancy as they mature – and it’s generally not easily predictable, so you can get burned if you pop the cork at the wrong time.
At this point you might be asking yourself, “what’s to like at all about this CDP crap?” Well, when done right, red CDPs are dark, spicy, and jammy, with firm tannin and hints of stone and minerals, sometimes with a bit of spice on the nose for good measure – in other words, they can totally rock (and not just from those galets)! As for my review…
Smokey dark fruit, slightly gamey, evoking rocky minerals, and a bit of mushroom. Finishes a bit too rough and heavy. It’s good, but not anything to write home about.
But this wine is my guilty pleasure.
Why? Because it reminds me of the biggest lightening of an emotional load that I’ve ever experienced…
Set the Way-Back Machine for Jan. 2003. Dude is in Toronto (in the middle of one of their coldest cold spells) with his mom, his younger brother, and younger bro’s then-fiancee. A few months before, younger bro’ was getting checked by his doc after a bout of heat exhaustion (brought on from hot-weather mountain biking in Delaware). During that treatment, doc decides to check younger bro’s heart (which has a congenital valve defect), just to be on the safe side. Lo and behold, younger bro’s heart defect is in overdrive – and if he wants to live more than another year, he’s going to need serious heart surgery.
That’s where Toronto comes in. Toronto may not be famous for its normal, everyday medical care, but it’s home to Tirone David, one of the best heart surgeons on the planet and (most importantly for little bro’), an expert at the Ross procedure. Younger bro’ had chosen Ross as the preferred method for mending his ticker, as it was the most compatible with his healthy, active lifestyle.
The days leading up to surgery were intense but not without their fun times, and we kept it together pretty well – until the big day came. What I remember most was sitting in the waiting room for about nine of the most grueling, emotional, and sickening hours of my life. I was trying to keep calm, cool, and collected so that mom and sister-in-law-to-be could remain calm, cool, and collected. But the surgery took far longer than we’d anticipated, and there was news of complications – but not news of how severe those complications were, or what they meant for little bro’s chances of survival. Eventually, I took a “walk to clear my head,” which was basically an excuse to find a quiet corner in the hospital and totally lose it to my tears, anxiety and exhaustion.
It was an experience I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy.
Little bro’ was revived several hours later. And he began to do well, working his way to an improbably swift recovery. The day he was released from the hospital, I made my way to the nearest shopping area to get Gameboys (little bro’ is a gamer), provisions for dinner, and most importantly wine (which by that time I sorely, sorely needed). Now, the LCBO stores aren’t much better than their PLCB counterparts, and I was getting mighty frustrated by the poor wine selection on offer. Running out of time before having to meet the family back at the hotel, and needing a quick pick, I grabbed a bottle of the Chateau Cabrieres Chateauneuf Du Pape and hightailed it out of there.
That evening, eating dinner with my extended family in our hotel suite, and seeing my little bro’ on the mend and nearly back to his old self, the weight of the entire earth seemed to lift right off of my shoulders. Each sip of that Chateau Cabrieres Chateauneuf Du Pape tasted like the purest, rarest red nectar – straight from the good earth, poured right from the glass directly into my soul.
Little bro’ is still with us, is still going strong, is still mountain biking, and is now the proud father of a little baby girl.
And Dude still feels a little bit of the world’s weight coming off his shoulders whenever he sips a glass of that heavy-finishing Chateau Cabrieres.
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…