Notes from the Cellar: Holy mackerel

by Jeff Cox (a.k.a. Gofreddo Gallo), Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in June 2009

Plucky Purcell — a notable Tom Robbins character — once observed that sooner or later everything boils down to the matter of a buck. Similarly, my dad often observes that the world turns on the Golden Rule — that is, those who have the gold, make the rules.

So, while both statements are ancient news, what never ceases to amaze this obedient correspondent is the creativity “them that’s got” employ in finding new nests to foul in their quest to assure that they forever “shall get” in the proportion to which they deem themselves entitled.

On June 19 the European Commission (EC) votes on a proposal that would allow wineries to make rosé by blending white and red wines. The International Organization of Vine and Wine — the entity that recognizes and approves of this practice — claims passage of the proposal will permit European producers to be more competitive with their counterparts in the Southern Hemisphere, by allowing greater “flexibility” and reducing costs.

In seeking a vote on the proposal, the EC is bowing to pressure from corporate producers who seek to level the playing field — allowing them to compete with the same lack of standards as their counterparts in Australia, South Africa and the United States. Seems fair, right?

Unfortunately, there’s nothing fair about it if you’re one of the many scrupulous rosé producers in France, Spain or Italy who have labored to make quality pink wine while raising the stature (and sales) of rosé worldwide.

As one Provençal producer puts it, they stand to see their work destroyed, as “industrial” wine producers cash in by “concocting rosé made of (awful) white, pinkened with a drop of (deplorable) red” — ultimately tainting the reputation of pink wine in the same way that certain large American “wineries” have bastardized the words “Burgundy,” “Chablis,” “Chianti,” “Champagne” and anything pink.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest family-owned “winery” was busy in May, reports Nancy Leson in The Seattle Times. It summoned the lawyers once again to defend the family name against those unfortunate souls who happen to share their surname and have the gall to label the fruits of their labors with it.

In an impressive display of deep pockets and elastic ethics, the Gallos have filed suit against Steve Winston, owner of The Spanish Table. His crime against the empire? He’s been selling pasta imported from a long-established Spanish company that brazenly operates under the name Gallo. Harrumph.

It’s business as usual for the brothers, whose mantra reportedly is “we don’t want market share, we want it all” — and who once sued their brother Joseph for calling his cheese company Joseph Gallo Cheese. Holy mackerel, indeed. Stay tuned.

Also in this issue

Raw food vitality

As the author of a vegetarian dining guidebook, I’ve had the pleasure of eating many exceptional meals over the years. But one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was not at a restaurant. Rather, it was a raw foods potluck a decade or so ago at a friend’s house here in Seattle.

The economic value of farmland

Until now, the costs of pollution and exploitation of finite resources haven’t been factored into the price of food. Profits are privatized while the cost to the environment is externalized to the public. It doesn’t have to be this way. Farmland needs to have its value recognized as more than just a source of food. In some places, that is being done.

News bites, June 2009

Economic impact of cooperatives, Washington legislative update, USDA surveys organic agriculture, and more