1.04.2015

Wine column no. 63: Should grapes have more privacy than you? (I don't think they should.)

Jan. 4, 2015: Every time I encounter a proprietary wine blend, I think: 
It must be great to be able to teeter there, on that edge, between 
being open, and being secretive; between being constructive, and 
being obstructive; between helping your customers learn more 
about wine, and making them throw their hands up in the air.


In other words, I don’t like proprietary blends. They bother me. Why 
do some winemakers take the time to respect consumers, telling 
them exactly which grapes are used to make the wine in their hands? 
And why do other vintners do all they can to make their wines a 
mystery, implying that if consumers really knew what was in them, 
they wouldn’t be interested in the wine at all?

There’s no legal definition for a proprietary blend in the United States, 
according to Wine Spectator. This means that Caymus' 2012 
Conundrum Red Blend isn't doing anything wrong when it sells its 
proprietary red blend from Rutherford, California, for $22.99 at The 
Fresh Market.

The Conundrum, actually, is quite a good wine for the price, what with 
its plum and cedar nose and its round feel. I'd purchase it again 
without any delay, or regret. Paired with a juicy cheeseburger, it would 
win out. 

Yet that’s not what concerns me. What bothers me is the philosophy 
used to market and sell proprietary wines. It would be different if 
consumers were banned from knowing the grapes used to make 
these blends. If the law said: “The privacy of the grapes used to 
produce these wines is guaranteed,” then I’d understand. The law 
is the law. I’d even support that, since I believe laws should be followed. 
Yet there isn’t a law that says grapes have privacy. There isn’t a law 
that says vineyards have privacy. There isn’t a law that says consumers 
shouldn’t be told what they are drinking, what they are served at parties, 
at dinner tables, during after-hours business deals. So it bothers me 
when vineyards capitalize on mystery, when they take what’s good and 
make it unattainable — when they kick out honesty and instead say, 
“Our privacy is more important than yours.” Because here’s the truth: 
Wouldn’t you want to know what you are swallowing? Wouldn’t you 
want to know what’s running through your veins? I would. And I don’t 
think I’m in the minority.

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