8.16.2015

Wine column no. 72: History, schmistory. We don't need grapes, and here's why.

Aug. 16, 2015: 

Last September, I asked myself to define what made wine, well, wine. The answer was complicated. But put simply, according to the U.S. Government Printing Office, wine is defined by the process used to make it. Additionally, I found that all wines are equal, but some wines are more equal than others — if you judge them on the potent forces of alcohol content alone. But power dynamics aside, what was missing in that column was a discussion about the common denominator in every single wine. And that, my wine-drinking readers, is grapes.

But wait just a minute. What about dandelion wine? And haven’t I seen rhubarb wine somewhere? In fact, there are a number of different types of non-grape-based wines out there: Apricots, currents, elderberries, peaches, pears, blackberries, blueberries, and more. Yet they don’t get even half the press that grape wines get. So this got me thinking: What makes grape-based wines so special, anyway?

I’m half-French, so I think I can make the following points half-mockingly while also making them half-believable. We all love half-truths, lies and innuendo, especially when the damage they do doesn’t seem to have anything to do with us, at least at first. But most importantly, there’s simply no other responsible way to make reckless and false allegations these days. So here we go:

First, grape-based wines get whole aisles at the grocery store. These bottles actually think they deserve to rub elbows with products in the produce, butcher and pastry departments. Do these grape-based wines really think they’re equal to them? It’s like they expect to get special treatment.

Second, grape-based wine has a certain je ne sais quoi. People think it’s all hoity-toity, and that reputation makes it a liability. Would you want to be caught with a glass of grape-based wine in your hand these days? It’s just so — let me find the right word — distasteful. If anyone told anyone else that they thought I was drinking grape-based wine, I’d just flat out call them a liar. Maybe I’d say a few other untrue things about them, too, just for good measure. How despicable, that I would want to experience a glass of a liquid that can be described as elegant, serious and substantial, or worse, that would make me feel good. I’m not even interested in finding out what those concepts are like in the first place, much less what they mean. Who is, these days? I mean, I’m not going to trump this up, but this is America. 

Third, cultivating grapes takes up our world’s precious land space. Imagine if this whole state were run over by people who wanted to plant or grow grapes. You know, those people, the ones that would want to make elegant, serious and substantial wines that might help us develop elegant, serious and substantial products and ideas. And don’t even get me started on the types of jobs these grapes, and by extension their wines, might create. I mean, I’m all for jobs. Who isn’t? But think about who’d create those jobs. It would be grapes. Shiver. Just whispering it to all my friends at dinner parties and across town makes me cringe.

Additionally, did you know that wine grapes require certain standards of care in order to survive? Now, this really goes beyond the pale. Grapes aren’t people, people. They don’t deserve to have good, ethical folks like you and me caring for their health and welfare. No, not at all. Grapes are things that Lucy Ricardo stomped hilariously in wine vats on “I Love Lucy.” John Steinbeck, some famous American fiction writer whose works I would never actually take the time to read, wrote a book that mentions them in the title. I don’t know if that means anything, since I didn’t read it and it's just not cool or responsible to do any research before making outlandish statements, but it seems like it’s probably relevant because it has grapes in the title. So I thought I’d mention it.

No. The best solution to this grape problem is the phylloxera plague. These tiny, almost microscopic insects wiped out most of Europe’s wine grapes in the late 19th century. I don’t know why the phylloxera did it, but the point is, they did it once, and if we’re lucky, they could do it again. I, for one, would be happy if we got rid of all those grapes. Not having grapes wouldn’t affect me at all. In fact, I think we’d all be better off because of it.

Now hand me a box of raisins. I may hate grapes, but I won’t let anyone take my raisins. Theft and discrimination are against the law, you know.

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