Matt Kramer is on a roll. Every two weeks you can expect thought-provoking, well-crafted writing from his “drinking out loud” column in Wine Spectator (it’s available online outside the paywall). I particularly like that he articulately infuses an interesting mix of cultural norms, ideology and — in this particular case — politics into his pieces. In the world of wine writing that’s not always common. Others that have tried often come across as forceful in tone, or just flat-out clunky in execution.
While I’m not always in agreement with what he has to say, his skill in framing complex and esoteric discussions is a welcome benefit to the wine community.
In “The Big Lie of Wine Democracy” Kramer sets out to debunk the notion that “elite” wine is available to the masses. His theory is that despite what we might be marketed to believe, it’s simply not true; and that “real-fine” wine is limited by definition since its production is limited by the availability of quality land (terroir).
Then there’s the conspiracy narrative.
We are led to believe, he argues, that fine wine appears to be readily available to us, but in reality that’s an illusion. It’s also a secret. Why? Because “nobody ever got rich (or elected) in America by being openly elitist.” (Dick Cheney notwithstanding)
Enter “faux-fine” wine.
Faux-fine is the wine that can be readily scaled to meet demand. Not the two-buck-chuck kind of faux-fine – in a counter-point someone might call that vrai-crap. No, I’m guessing he’s referring to Harlan, Scarecrow… maybe even Silver Oak, Opus? All the brands suffocated and celebrated by wine marketing 101. Perhaps.
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It’s not clear who is masterminding this plan (as one commenter asks) but never mind that. It’s all about “The Big Lie”:
“The Big Lie of our time is that you can have all the quality that comes from artisanal craftsmanship and true fine-wine grape sourcing available to you in unlimited quantity and limitless distribution wherever you go.”
I question one bit of logic. Kramer suggests that “the new wine democracy is not about money, but rather how much effort you’re willing to expend.” But these are not mutually exclusive concepts. Money can buy effort. Just as effort can beget money. Or something like that. Confused? Just read the article… ponder, and enjoy a fun wine yarn surely to tickle many an oenophile.
And someone — a poodle! — please text Karl Marx or DM Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.