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The Brotherhood Of The Grape

“California vineyards bring in record crop."  — New York Times, Feb. 16, 2014

(Scene:  Dinner gathering of wine industry business honchos)

"OK, good job this year everybody and thanks for turning up here tonite, but we gotta get into the tough stuff here and now.  There's way too many grapes being grown and not enough drinkers buying them, obviously.  How do we fix that?  There, I said it."

"Well, I'll give you this much credit — you warned us before.  But who wants to listen when the money's flowing in like, well, wine?"

"Right, but that was then, this now. It's basic supply and demand — and a glut means prices down and nobody wins, or, almost nobody."

"Maybe we can market our stuff as ‘gluten-free’?  Everybody else is doing it."

"Very funny.  But listen, ever hear of the ‘tragedy of the commons’? Some old enviro-nazi science geek said that if you let everybody do whatever they want — having kids, eating food, growing something, etc. — the land or whatever gets overloaded and the whole thing collapses.  So somebody has to set limits and somebody has to enforce them. Or something like that."

"Hmm — don't tell the water worriers, hah!  Well, that's a fancy way of saying it, but sure, I'll bite. How would we do that? And where the hell is our waitress?  Hey!  Over here, honey.  And bring us the wine list!"

(She arrives, hands out the red-bound list, and walks off without comment until she reaches the kitchen — "Those crappy tippers are here again," she laments to nobody in particular).

"Look at this bullshit list — French, Italian, Chilean, Portugese.... red, white, rose, sparkly, green, whatever...and ours. As if anybody could tell the diff, right?"

"Hey, shut up!” (general laughter).

"Remember that time they had a blindfold test and none of the experts could tell what country or even continent the bottles came from?  They didn't try that one again!"

"Har... but they shouldn't even be allowed to import and sell all that other stuff here, right?  This is f'n California, right?  Right?"

"Hey those blindfolded tests were even worse news than you say. Not only could few so-called wine snobs not discern between differing grapes, but many couldn't even tell red from white!"

"Hey, SHUT UP!"  (some more chuckling, less robust).

"And how about those pompous pricks who think they can tell different years of the same wine?  You gotta be kidding me!"  (effusive snorting).  That Parker fraud puts number ratings on bottles; people think they mean something, but it only means is we can charge more!"

"Well, at least a lot of people seem to think that going ‘wine tasting’ is fun.  Whoever came up with that one should get a Nobel Prize in marketing!" (knowing chuckles).

"I don't think they have that one yet. But you know the most common request in our tasting room?  Gimmie your most sweet stuff!'  No shit!"

"Did I ever tell you of the time I kept all the fancy bottles from a tasting, filled them with generic swill, and served them at that benefit — everybody was standing around sniffing the corks and the bottle and the glasses and puffing out their cheeks and so forth and looking all thoughtful and appreciative and taking about ‘bouquets’ and all that bullshit and saying ‘You know, I could get used to this’ and we were looking out at them and peeing our pants.  It works every time."

"Well, yeah — it's been shown that the more people pay for a bottle, they more likely they are to think it's great — no matter what it really is. There's one — or ten — born every minute, thank Bacchus.  And — Oh, Hi honey, just bring us a bottle each of the house red and white, thanks…  Now where were we?  Oh yeah, the taste tests.  ‘Reality tests,’ some call them — and ban them.  'Humans can't bear too much reality', as some poet wrote, and he was probably drunk at the time!"  (giggles).

"Look at this bottle description — ‘hearty finish with hints of rosemary and chocolate.’  Hah! That's rich. If we were honest there, it would just say ‘Redolent with the freshest manure fertilizer and the latest pesticides’, right?” (general hilarity ensues)

"Right, right — plus ‘the fungicide-laced sweat of underpaid uninsured illegal laborers from the south’!"

(A guffaw, then throats clearing and then silence). "Makes about as much sense as ‘estate-bottled and all that. What's that spozed to mean?"

"Oh, it's all these rich guys with big egos and insecurity and boredom who want to have a bottle with their own name on it to show off, even it that means setting up an entire useless vineyard to do so."

"Er,  yes.  So... whadda we gonna do about this two-buck Chuck f__k?  The bastard's out-Gallo-ing Gallo!"

"Right, hey, but what can we do?  We all grow as much as we can, which is waaaaay too much altogether, and then bitch when we are at his mercy.  I tried to walk away from his insulting offer last time this happened and then had to go back, practically begging.  What he paid me was hardly enough for the gas it took to get there and back. But it beats just plowing all the vines back into the dirt, I guess."

"Well, we're hardly gonna get any sympathy, what with the tax write-off and such."  (another short deep contemplative silence in homage to the tax code).

"Look ... I tried to help with the ‘healthy’ marketing angle. ‘Good for your heart,’ and all that.  Then the cancer bastards came in and said wine was causing breast cancer and so on.  Aren't the damn warning labels on every damn bottle enough, not that anybody has ever read one? Add in all the drunk drivers and winos and ‘domestic violence’ and all that bullshit and we just can't win."

"You’d think the goddamn politicians would be happy with all the taxes we — or, uh, our customers — pay on the stuff.  But no, they want more, as if it's our fault that people can't control themselves."

"Right, it's not like we're the ones who've told them that that respiradol, respid- that whatchamacallit stuff in the grapes fixes their heart or something.  It was those consultants' idea, honest!  And so what if it would take so many gallons a day to get any real benefit… hey, wait a minute."  (haw haw)

"Ok, OK, we're getting off track here. There's a big drought, I don't have to tell you, and who knows how long it will last even if it has nothing to do with that phony climate change stuff and what are we gonna do about it? We gotta get really serious about this — get much more careful with the water, curtail our production—"

"Hah!  Whaddya — drunk or something?" (more general hilarity, as waitress brings dinner)

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