Notes from the Cellar: Sustain this

by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in November 2008

“In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation … even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”
— Great Law of the Iroquois

Perhaps the hardest thing about penning this rant every month is picking one little slice of one little topic and somehow managing to work it into a respectable lather in 400 words or so.

Alors, as I sit here with the first wave of French press (I do indeed make a serious cup of coffee) unleashing a tide of shockingly profound things that need to be said, it isn’t a question of having enough to write about, it’s a case of having too much.

I’m no economist but I coulda told you so. I saw it a comin’. Maybe it’s coincidence, but to my unsophisticated senses, it has felt pretty sketchy for a long, long time. Now I’m sure it feels great if you’re routinely banking double-digit profits (and have the foresight or good fortune to get out while the gettin’s good), but that kind of exponential growth just isn’t sustainable over the long haul.

As impressive as it looks, it’s still a house of cards — especially when they’re shoring up the foundation on borrowed loot. You can put as much lipstick on it as you like, but it is what it is and it ain’t pretty.

Sophisticated “financial instruments”? That’s six syllables to say what I can say in two letters: B and S. Sooner or later, someone’s going to call in the note — and somebody’s going to have to pay. Down comes the house.

So what does this have to do with wine? Not much, and a lot. Pick your metaphor — wine happens to be my favorite — but truth tends to manifest itself again and again in a multitude of realms.

Okay, here’s a parallel. I’m no master sommelier, nor do I have thousands of subscribers who rely on my pronouncements to tell them what their palates ought to like. But I’ve had a bottle or two in my time and can tell when what I’m drinking is the real deal or when it’s time to look away from the Emperor’s public display.

Appreciating the finer points of wine (or anything) requires attention and thought. A little critical inquiry can unravel layers of complexity, depth and nuance — revealing charm, uniqueness of provenance, and the character of the grower — or a sham, a manufactured, manipulated product masquerading behind a marketing concept. A con job is a con job in any business.

Beware those who “make” wine from behind a desk, farmers who never get their hands dirty, offers of free lunch, or something for nothing.

Oops, that’s 467 words, so gotta go. If you’re reading this before November 4, think hard, then vote.

Also in this issue

From Seattle to Jerusalem: sustainable ideas ripple around the world

The environmental leadership of Seattle is having a ripple effect around the world. During a recent trip to Jerusalem, a friend saw people there starting to refuse plastic bags at check-out counters.

Choices in sugars and sweeteners

It’s easy to make lovely holiday desserts with less refined and even unrefined sweeteners. Choosing less refined sweeteners has some advantages, too. Learn more about using Sucanat, demerara, muscovado, Rapadura or liquid sweeteners in baking and cooking.

News bites, November 2008

Co-ops raise $30,000 for flooded farmers; The origins of Thanksgiving; American Thanksgiving; and more