Tuesday, July 31, 2007


The subject is alcohol, and to introduce it to you I want to point out that the grape is the only fruit that I know of that, when ripe, produces a minimum of sugar plus available natural yeast to ferment to between 8 % and 14 % alcohol by volume, and it can do this without human intervention.

~Last week a California winemaker named Randy Dunn issued a blanket letter to consumers bemoaning what he sees as a terrible trend toward high alcohol wines.
~Generally, I am in agreement with Dunn and those who believe that high alcohol wine is not only a trend, but a bad one. But Dunn left himself open to ridicule with statements like this one: “Most wine drinkers do not really appreciate wines that are 15-, 16-plus percent alcohol.”
~As the buzz heightened on myriad Internet wine bulletin boards, that sentence was brought up a few times to prove that Dunn is simply a wine ‘Jihadist,” a word that an illustrious wine critic sometimes uses to belittle anyone who disagrees with him. (I really don’t understand why someone of his stature does that kind of stuff.)
~Anyway, the quote above did make it easy for those who disagree with Dunn to consider him to be standing on quicksand, since he couldn’t possibly mean that people really drink what they don’t like.
~Fact is, those high alcohol wines are selling. For that to take place, a lot of people would have to be drinking what they don’t like. I suppose it’s possible, but I surely wouldn’t bet on such a premise.
~Dunn went on to make a better case by saying that he doesn’t believe average consumers are so insensitive to flavor and taste that they need a lot of alcohol to carry it to them.
~There, he gets at something that bothers me.
~There was a time when a cup of espresso or cappuccino hit the spot and was also hard to find in America.
~Not any more. Now, a certain coffee purveyor is rich for having not only provided espresso and cappuccino but for having notched up the cappuccino and called it a “latte,” available in multiple flavors and combinations, plus a humongous size cup. (The company once tried to remove the “boring” espresso from its list. You can’t do much to make more money on a good cup of espresso.)
~There also was a time when a plain bagel with some butter or maybe some cream cheese smeared on it was an early morning delight.
~Not any more. Now, a bagel is incomplete if it hasn’t been gussied with cinnamon or raisins or chocolate and smeared with pounds of various substances that may or may not even be real.
~The point being, simple, subtle pleasures don’t seem to be enough. We want more—we want to ratchet all tastes and experiences to the limit, and then we want to exceed that!

Ratcheting is a sickness that cannot be cured; it can only be tended to with more ratcheting.

We keep piling on and our noses and palates become desensitized so we have to pile more on.

I believe this is why alcohol levels, along with a general ratcheting of wine intensity, have been creeping up.

~Dunn points out that high alcohol interrupts the pleasure of food.
~Again, I agree—although I disagree with his example. He says that the only dishes that pair well with high alcohol wines are hot, spicy dishes. I find that combination to be near lethal on my palate.
~To me, too much alcohol interrupts most food pairing. There are of course exceptions: Port and Madeira come to mind. But I am talking about table wine and dinner.

I consider a wine high in alcohol at about 15 % by volume.

It’s tricky, however, to determine this alcohol level since wine labels don’t usually accurately report alcohol.

Producers are given 1.5 % leeway on the label. If a table wine is labeled 12 % by volume, the alcohol can be as low as 10.5 % or as high as 13.5 %.

After a wine technically reaches 14 % alcohol by volume, the leeway is dropped to 1 % plus or minus. I don’t know what happens after that and I am not sure I care to know.

~Because I can’t trust the label, I measure alcohol by what I taste and feel. If the wine is hot, I’m going to be concerned, even if the rest of the wine is in balance with the high alcohol. In fact, if the rest of the wine is in balance with the high alcohol, it likely has way too much intensity for me to enjoy it with food, which leads to another of Dunn’s points.
~Dunn claims that people who like high alcohol wines (beyond 15%) enjoy tasting rather than consuming—they like to sip, spit and wax philosophic over the wine’s merits or maybe to be more accurate, they love to discuss their knowledge or their perspicacity.
~The part of the previous sentence after the dash are my thoughts, not Dunn's. I have met many wine geeks who are on that wavelength, and since they are the ones who seem to buy the high alcohol, high intensity, high priced wines, they likely drive the production of these products—wine critics seeking “gobs of fruit” in their wines, whatever that means, seem also happy with high alcohol wines.
~There is, however, another possibility that Dunn did not bring up and that might have some bearing in the discussion.
~High alcohol wines interrupt food and generally are too hot. They also get you drunk quicker.
~Maybe those people who don’t seek wine for the pleasure it gives when paired with a meal simply want to get drunk!

Incidentally, in some parts of the wine world (California, Australia, etc.) winemakers specifically gear their wines toward high alcohol by leaving the fruit on the vine until the grapes are nearly dripping with ripeness and sugars—higher sugars creates more alcohol during fermentation, and specific yeast strains have been designed to accommodate the high alcohols that natural yeasts cannot.

Here's the weird part: after having reached the level of alcohol they seek, many winemakers then add water to the wines, to lessen their intensity.

I suppose the winemakers start with truly excessive alcohol levels, since adding water would also lower the alcohol by volume. But adding water to wine is something I never dreamed of doing when I produced it.

In fact, many in the wine industry used to deride the large producers who routinely added water to “ameliorate” their cheap products. Now, I suppose winemakers charge more money for all the work that is involved in adding water!!!

Interview with Randy Dunn:

Three Web site discussions concerning Dunn's letter:

1 2 3

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
July, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Best Government Money Can Buy

~After talking with some people a few days ago, it occurred to me that many wine consumers don’t yet understand the nature of alcohol control in the United States.

Briefly, federal, state and local governments view alcohol as a beautiful sin: a wonderful source of revenue; a place to stick it to the public who demands its alcohol. The rest follows...

~Alcohol regulation is a fine example of hypocrisy; it puts the lie to the need for a war on drugs (legalize them and the government can make money), and it shows how easily government regulators can subvert the premises behind the U.S. Constitution.
~Before I go on, did you know that there was a time when the government did not control wine traffic, and people could freely buy and sell the product without a license? In fact, wine was promoted by many of the country’s founders and latter supporters as an antidote to the bane of “drink.”

We all know that story about the Boston Tea Party, when the valuable commodity was dumped into Boston Harbor to protest onerous taxes.

About a decade before the famous tea party, Boston Harbor was the site of an almost skirmish concerning wine.

At the time, shipments of Madeira (the most popular wine in the colonies) went untaxed, until the British legislator at Boston slapped a tax on an incoming shipment on a vessel named the Liberty.

The locals revolted and the British backed down.

The vessel’s owner was John Hancock.

Perhaps, the Tea Party gang got inspiration from that earlier incident concerning wine!

~In the early days of our republic, Doctor Benjamin Rush was one particular supporter of wine. This personal friend of Thomas Jefferson was the man to first refer to alcoholism as a disease. He was also convinced that moderate wine consumption was not only healthy—it was one way to reduce alcoholism.
~Today, there is a substance abuse program and hospital named after Rush. Back then, Rush gave speeches tearing down evil drink and building up moderate wine.
~Benjamin Rush died in 1833, the same year that the American so-called temperance movement took flight in Western New York.

The word temperance originally meant moderation but was promoted by Prohibitionists until it took on the cloak of abstinence.

~The Prohibitionists had a valid argument—drink was a problem in the early country—but like most special interest groups, they took it to the extreme (or maybe they had been infiltrated by extremists). In any event, they used Doctor Rush’s speeches to support their argument against alcohol, and they made sure to leave out his positive references to wine.
~It took about 85 years for the Prohibition movement to win its victory, which first came with a few localities within a few states going dry, then a few states going dry, then a bolstered movement got to the Congress, to the often pusillanimous body of legislators who know a special interest when they see one. The Congress responded in 1919 with the Volstead Act: Prohibition.
~In 1933 the errant Volstead Act, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was wiped out with three simple sentences known as the 21st Amendment, Repeal of Prohibition—it was the first Amendment to the Constitution to completely wipe out an earlier Amendment.
~Repeal was a wonderful moment in American history; still, the 1933 Congress that killed Prohibition proved that it was equally as pusillanimous as the 1919 Congress that created it.
~During Prohibition, while myriad preachers and moralists fought hard to make Prohibition a lasting American aberration, an equal myriad gangsters and corrupt politicians made sure that alcohol flowed during the enactment of the law.
~When Repeal came, the corrupt realized they could lose that stream of money and so, they solidified their positions within the states, and were able to do so because the mealy brained Congress had built into the 21st Amendment a provision that became an override to an existing Constitutional protection under the Commerce Clause in Section 8, Article 1: free and unfettered trade among the states.
~Contrary to the Commerce Clause, the 1933 Congress gave the states the right to control and regulate alcohol within their borders. How the control and regulation was set up mainly became a reflection of the level of corruption and influence alcohol traffickers maintained within each state.
~Some states took complete governmental control of licensing, distribution and retail sales—and we know the kind of corruption that can, and did, produce. Other states allowed private businesses to handle the distribution and retailing, but not without paying the piper, and for their tax and secret monies, the states helped alcohol distributors by acting as a protection ring for them.

Today, amidst the maniacal morass, large distributor wholesalers are opening their wallets to prevent politicians from doing what should have been done in 1933: leave the wine business to work like any other business in America—free and unfettered.

~You may have heard of a case that went to the Supreme Court a few years ago concerning wine shipping across state lines. Until the Supreme Court ruling, the hodgepodge of states that prohibited wine shipping across their borders and states that allowed it was confusing at best, unconstitutional at worst. Unfortunately, after the ruling, the situation isn't much better.
~The courts' decision was narrow: it homed on one constitutional issue (state commercial protectionism) while it avoided another (the subversion of the Dormant Commerce Clause that was built into the 21st Amendment).

Disclaimer: I am neither lawyer nor constitutional scholar. I just know a scam when I see one.

Commerce Clause 21st Amendment The Supremes

~As legislators and justices are often wont to produce, the Supreme Court decision left an ambiguity that is now being exploited, state by state, across the country, the result of which is that, while the borders may not be officially closed to wine shipping, the activity of state politicians, responding to their coffers stuffed with distributor dollar bills, has effectively lessened the chances for wines being shipped across many state lines. (Moralists are out there too. They sit in state as well as federal government chairs just loving the fight! And don't think for a minute that moralists don't sit on the Supreme Court).
~For a sample of what is going on, check out these sites.

Illinois Wisconsin

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
July, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Prescription glasses

~My retail wine shop business partner once thought he wanted to get into selling wine glasses. But he wanted to sell glasses with his logo on them, and he wanted to get them from the glass producers, so he made a trip to Eastern Europe, where, he told me, much of the expensive wine glasses are produced.
~Alas, the trip to “glassland” soured him on the idea.
~According to my business partner, he discovered that two top-level wine glass brands of the period used the same glass manufacturers. He also said that while at the plant, he couldn’t tell one brand from another unless he had been told in advance.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the veracity of my business associate’s claim.

Also, my ex-business associate’s glass manufacturing information is moot: in politics, you conquer by dividing; in commerce you conquer by consolidating; one of those two top wine glass companies bought the other one a while back and seems to have marginalized that brand’s name.

In the meanwhile, the remaining high-end glass producer may have discovered an interesting twist on the concept of “prescription glasses.”

~It is essential that wine glasses are produced from good crystal and endowed with properly shaped bowls to bring out wine’s qualities and the special emphasis on wine’s aroma.
~Yet, glass makers now tell us that they have designed wine glasses to “direct” the individual wine’s taste nuances to their proper places on our tongue. I believe we can—and should—do that mouth-watering and pleasant gymnastics on our own. Plus, I believe that the claims of glass makers are mostly promotion and marketing.
~I certainly harbor disbelief about directing the taste nuances over my tongue, but my disbelief turns almost to outrage when glassmakers claim that to bring out their special aromas each specific wine varietal requires a specific glass shape, which, I understand, they may have begun to claim.
~As I’ve said, it is essential to drink from a good glass that is well shaped, but it also strikes me as nonsense that each individual wine varietal requires its own glass—I don’t believe it from a technical standpoint and I certainly can easily see the fallacy from a practical standpoint.
~Thousands of wine grape varieties in the world go into producing thousands of wines. Add to that the fact that there are many more thousands of potential blends, and it’s clear that it is technically impossible to come up with a glass for each specific wine.
~If technical impossibility is not enough, how about this: can you seriously consider owning a set of glasses for every wine? What about the cabinet in which one would house those sets of glasses? The thing would give new meaning to the description, “crystal palace!”
~Perhaps, if I were so singularly wine-centric as to buy and consume mainly Bordeaux, Burgundy, and some German wines, my cabinet might be more manageable, and I could console myself into surety concerning my crystal wine glass collection. But I drink wine from everywhere.
~Wait a minute: maybe the high-end glassmakers are in fact targeting people like me.
~The news is out that the wine drinking public seems lately widely open to trying new—to them—varietal wines.
~In the old days, we drank red Spanish wine and didn’t talk a lot about the tempranillo grape that is the country’s wine industry workhorse. But just this morning, someone mentioned in a discussion of Tempranillo wines that a high-end glass is on the market specifically for drinking them.
~Perhaps glass manufacturer executives read the same wine industry trade magazines that I read.
~If so, it’s likely that one of those articles about consumer acceptance of unfamiliar wine varietals gave an idea to a suit in the office of a high-end glass producer somewhere in Europe, and perhaps it was a prescription for perpetual success in wine glasses.

Riedel: Spiegelau:

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
July, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


~In the nineteen fifties, as the cold war oxymoronically heated up, Americans across the country built underground bomb shelters to protect families from “the big one.”
~We know that should “the big one” land on us, bomb shelters are likely to be as safe as a quilt, but I am certain having a hole in the ground, complete with cans of bad food that probably would kill a human being if eaten over long periods of time, made heads of households feel good about themselves—they had done something about the situation; or had they? Since then, it seems like bombs have proliferated.

Well, fifty years ago, we had bomb shelters—today, we have carbon footprints to worry over.

What in the world has this subject to do with wine?

~Roberto Rogness, my friend and a wine merchant in Santa Monica, California posted a serious question on a wine-oriented bulletin board that I simply could not take serious.
~Roberto is at the spot on the West Coast where muscle beach meets celebrity—where the word (and the functional thing) “sidewalk” may not even be anachronistic because it may never have existed in the first place. I know for a fact that walking on the sidewalk as opposed to driving an S.U.V. on asphalt, creates a carbon footprint as light as a hush puppy!!!
~Seriously, a customer at Roberto’s wine shop, an event planner, wanted to know about the carbon footprint of the wines he would be selling her for a particular event. Apparently, her customers were concerned that they might be drinking wine that is ruining the world.
~I may seem flippant, but I do believe that there is something to the concept that wine production can be making a negative effect on the earth, but so is food production, auto production, computer production, and just about anything produced that relies on tractors, trucks, ships, planes, warehouses and all warehousing material, electricity, water, and I am sure a dozen other things that go into getting something from producer to consumer.
~Maybe it’s unfair, but I am cynically entertaining a vision of the event planner having driven to Roberto’s shop in her shiny S.U.V. (if she can get there on a tank of gas) and the event planner’s customer garaging maybe two S.U.Vs, maybe a gas and oil-guzzling outboard motorboat, and who knows, maybe even a private jet; we are talking celebrityville, after all.
~I imagine this same customer with a refrigerator full of caviar shipped from Russia, or those wonderful Marie biscuits from England (well, they used to be wonderful; today they taste like cardboard deep fried in fat).
~Of course, to get the goodies one loves one either drives to the electrified, air conditioned shopping mall in one’s guzzler or one has someone else’s guzzler do it for you, like an event planner or a delivery truck, which of course means you have to use either your electrified computer or telephone to make contact.
~If this is in fact the situation, this customer might just as well go build a bomb shelter than seek wine that leaves either a mild or no carbon footprint.

Roberto was seeking information in the form of a paper or a study that evaluates the carbon impact of wine production and delivery. He hoped to show it to his event-planner customer.

There may in fact be a study out there, and if there is, I suspect it would show that wine production and delivery makes a reasonably substantial carbon footprint.

Even the most “green” vineyard is likely being worked with the help of a gas or diesel fueled tractor. And I know for a fact that not all wine production is accomplished by the mere force of gravity—electric pumps do a lot of the work, as does electrified presses, lighting inside dark production facilities, pallet-moving equipment like fork lifts, and so on.

If the wineries use equipment, what do you think is used by bottle, box, and pallet makers, plus shipping companies? And oh, the lights and refrigeration in all those wine retail shops, not to mention the fatuous nature of so many “wine experts” that work in them…

~Plainly, I am pin pricking, but the best way to know that you as a consumer are contributing least to the carbon footprint of wine production and sales is to buy local, just as you would with farmed food.
~Go to the winery and buy your product right out of the stainless steel tank or oak barrel. That way, there are no bottles, boxes or pallets involved. Although, you will have to figure out the carbon footprint of whatever container you bring with you to the winery and whatever means you use to transport the stuff that you just bought plus, you will have to fight with the lawmakers who don't allow wineries to sell direct from the tank.
~This is my long-winded way of saying that I find it difficult to take serious the carbon footprint illusions of people who live and work where there are no sidewalks, but I do understand that feel-good thing that thinking about the problem creates.
~Yet, if consumers are serious about the carbon footprint of wine or of anything else, we might turn our energy into doing something about replacing those who have the power to create a more carbon-neutral energy policy: our leaders.

Instead of a national effort to seek and elect rational human beings to high office, we seem to blithely go along listening to the silver-tongued bs of the foxes that we keep electing to stand sentry at the henhouse; then, we build bomb shelters to insulate ourselves from the results and from the responsibility.

Roberto: Footprint1: Footprint2:

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
July, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


~There’s a new book out by Harvard philosopher Michael J. Sandel titled, The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.
~It seems that Mr. Sandel is concerned that the human pursuit of perfection may be our undoing. To bolster his argument he cites sports figures taking steroids, parents selecting the sex or health of their unborn, and other such things that he believes threaten the dignity of human beings.
~ Mr. Sandel didn’t cite it, but I can easily see how one other pursuit of perfection fits into his thesis: wine ratings inflation.
~Right now, because of this “perfection” quest, the majority of wines produced in the world are being devalued by being ignored by most critics and much of the press. That is a slam against the dignity of the wines and the dignity of the producers of the wines.
~In my last blog entry, I wrote my feelings about medals that wines receive from competitions. In one of the comments I received about that entry, the poster wondered that since wineries all over the place seem to have all kinds of medals hanging on their walls, what exactly is the value of the medals they’ve won?
~I could be glib with my answer, but I’ll try to do better:

The value of the medals is in the marketing.

~Let’s face it, the general consumer doesn’t know what perfection in wine is or how to identify it—professionals don’t know that either.
~To many, the Gold Medal symbolizes perfection and so, to the press, only those perfect Gold Medal winners are worthy of attention—Silver and Bronze Medals are just a bunch of white noise. Nothing to market there.
~If Gold represents perfection, we have to wonder why someone upped the ante by creating the Double Gold Medal? How can you double up on perfection?

And the more the press blathers about the Double Gold Medal its eventual devaluation will lead to the Triple Gold Medal.

~Numerical ratings inflation may be even more insidious than medal inflation.
~Consumers assume that the people awarding medals are wine professionals who generally know what they are doing. But to many consumers, wine critics who assign scores are more than professionals, more than mere mortals—they are gurus, mini-gods, celebrities. These people surely must know perfection.
~What’s worse, when mini-gods give high scores to wines, the wine producers often become mini-cults. The wines become allocated and expensive—and you should see what happens to the dignity of the consumers who beg for allocated wines at any price...
~As consumers are desensitized to high scores, the scores need to get higher; what used to be a good score pales; 95 becomes the new 90.

Did you know that major wine scoring people usually don’t bother to tell you about a wine that scores below 85 out of 100?

Have you any idea how many wines they aren’t telling you about?

Is 85 out of 100 a bad score? It wasn’t in high school!

~No one can argue that 85 is perfection, so I guess it makes sense not talk about it. But is 95 out of 100 perfect? Of course not, and so the closer to perfect a score can get, the more frenzy that is generated, and the higher the price that can be had for the wine, plus the more important the wine critic becomes to the consumer.
~Talk about inflation: one day, 98 will become the new 95. When that happens critics will be forced to find wines closer to 100 points.
~What happens after 100 becomes the new 98 is anybody’s guess—maybe a Double 100?
~When it came to identifying premium, top quality, worthwhile wine I used to believe that I knew what I was talking about. After all, I had been consuming wine for decades; I spent hundreds of hours studying wine; I learned how to grow grapes and to make wine; who better to pass judgment on wine?
~What I discovered is that the wine wasn’t really my focus. My focus was that last question, in other words, my focus was me and my heightened sense of my abilities ~How pompous can one get? I had to quickly shoot down my internal inflation. After many years and many situations where wines proved me wrong, I stopped thinking that I knew so much. If only most wine critics could do that.

The link below is a bulletin board thread that you must read. Buried in the thread is a comment by a wine critic that is quite revealing, and it illustrates, I think, where the idea of rating wine has taken consumers as well as critics.

The critic’s comment illustrates beautifully what Mr. Sandel means about the direction in which the pursuit of perfection can take us.

Submit to critics:

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
July, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Everyday vs Hobby

A while ago someone online posted a thought that I have kept in my file because I liked it then—and I still like it, although my apologies to the writer, whose name I don’t have:

“…sheer hedonistic criticism may be the best that the critic has to offer, but in the hierarchy of value, it may offer the least information to the recipient.”

In order to understand and agree with the above quote, you have to first understand and agree that when a critic assigns scores to wine it is not an objective activity—it is hedonistic.

This lead in is to point you to yet another lengthy thread on a wine-oriented bulletin board concerning rating wines with points. There is a link to that thread at the bottom of this post.

~I think that lengthy arguments take place on wine oriented Web bulletin boards mainly because of a difference between those who treat wine as a hobby and those who treat wine as a daily food.
~The way hobbyists act sometimes leaves me wondering whether a hobby is more of a compulsion than it is an enjoyment. They do become obsessive!
~Wine hobbyists seem to be on a quest for the best; a lofty goal indeed, but likely a fruitless one (pun intended). You can know if you’ve had the best wine only after you’ve had them all.
~Most wine hobbyists probably already know the limitation they face, maybe that’s why many seem interested in only the perceived top wines.
~The problem of course is that to chase after the perceived top wines means that you have already determined what is the best. Now, how do many hobbyists get that information? Quite often, the critics proclaim and the hobbyists go chasing after the wine.
~It's ok with me how people want to view wine. My only real concern is this: if a wine that I like pairs perfectly with my meal, will it pair less well with my meal after not having won critical acclaim or an award in a competition?
~I am of course being cynical, but I do think the chasm between us daily wine drinkers and the wine hobbyists is fairly wide and it may be that the gap will never be closed. I know that I am tired of the argument. I may not understand the motivations of the hobbyist, but it isn’t my place to change them.
~Yet, the wine hobbyist and I share common ground—like most of them, I, too, appreciate great wine. I enjoy a discussion over (and tasting of) great wine when I can buy them or better yet, get them for free.
~Still, while wine is a daily necessity, great wines are not.
~The only necessary wine is the one that pairs well with both my dinner and my budget, and lucky me, thousands of affordable wines that can do quite nicely with a variety of meals are at my disposal.
~Hobby or no, I wonder if it is at all possible that those who need to know what someone else thinks of a wine may suffer from a basic insecurity?
~The last time I posed that question to a wine hobbyist, before he tried to give me a black eye, he said that he uses the scores of critics so that he can be better informed when he buys wine.
~Silly me, I’ve always thought that being better informed meant finding out for yourself. With wine, what more pleasant way is there to do that than to taste?
~Some hobbyists who do taste wine have an annoying habit of telling others what to like. I used to do that, but I don’t any longer. Unless I have a particular motive, why should I care who agrees or disagrees with what I like or don’t like? (I suspect some wine people believe that they have impeccable taste and they want to make sure others know it, but that’s a separate issue.)
~I want to make a proposal to all those who post on wine oriented bulletin boards. The next time you feel the need to tell me what’s good—don’t. You do that and I will stop being sarcastic when you drone on about the latest 95-point wine that I can’t afford.

Have you noticed that this time I’ve avoided talking about another class of wine person: the collector or investor? I think the words “collector” and “investor” say all that is needed on that subject, and I can’t afford those wines either...


Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
July, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 2, 2007


~In my last entry I promised this entry would be about a yeast trial on Riesling that I was going to attend at Cornell University’s Agricultural Station.
~In the driveway the morning of the yeast trials, I put my car into first gear, moved forward and felt the right front end fall to the ground. The suspension spring had popped, and a piece of it dug right into my tire.
~The estimated $1200 damage to my car kept me from making it to the yeast trials and so I will to talk about BYOB instead of yeast.
~When I was a young man in New York City, BYOB meant a party was going on—you went to the party, you brought your own booze, and I mean booze. Few brought Bordeaux to a party.
~These days, BYOB has taken on a new meaning, at least with wine geeks (being the sticklers that they are, you would think wine geeks would hate the idea that wine is considered booze).
~Anyway, wine geeks use the initials BYOB to bring wine from their cellar to a restaurant when they go out for dinner.
~The only times I have ever brought wine to a restaurant are those times when the restaurant I chose hadn’t had a license to sell wine. Because of weird licensing laws, New Jersey has a bunch of such restaurants and I used to live in NJ. Otherwise, I consider BYOB an insult to the restaurant, if not a loss of income. A restaurant is in the business of serving food and drink. If I operated a restaurant that’s what I’d be serving, and it would not be from the customer’s cellar.
~Many wine geeks claim that they bring their own wine because they have better wine in their cellar than the restaurant offers on the wine list.
~That may be the case, and if it is, I suggest they eat somewhere else.
~To be fair, these geeks often don’t mind paying a so-called corkage fee when they bring their own wine, and I suppose that mitigates the situation somewhat. But the geeks also want to dictate what the corkage fee should be, which essentially means that the restaurant is being told what its margin should be on wine.
~I would not like that if it were my restaurant.
~Other wine geeks claim that they bring their own wine because they do not like the restaurant mark up on wine?
~These same people will often say that they don’t mind paying a corkage fee and that they always tip the staff enough or more to cover what the wine would have cost them had they bought from the wine list—seems to me they could just as well pay the restaurant mark up.
~By the way, if you don’t like a restaurant’s wine mark up you still have the choice to eat somewhere else.
~I wonder if these wine geeks have any idea what the mark up on food is at a restaurant? Having to account for preparation and waste, plus service, I can assure them that the mark up is not low.
~If the wine geek is unhappy with the mark up on wine, why isn’t the geek unhappy with the mark up on food?
~Maybe the geek should bring wine and food to the restaurant and pay a corkage plus cooking fee to the management for the privilege, plus a hefty tip for the wait staff that would be equal to or higher than had the geek bought both wine and food from the list and menu.
~Don’t misunderstand me: I think most restaurants over-charge for wine. The truly egregious ones don’t get my patronage. The reasonably egregious ones get less than I would spend for wine had they been better priced. The smart ones get my money and my loyalty. But none of them ever get my BYOB, because I don’t BYOB.
~I am considering, however, that the next time I go to the movies I will tell the manager that I really need only a seat and some darkness. Not liking what the theater has playing, how about I pay $1 for the privilege of bringing my own movie and laptop with DVD player?

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
July, 2007. All Rights Reserved.