Poured with Pleasure

Bill Marsano’s blog on wine and spirits and cocktails: "If it’s good in a glass, I’m pouring it."

Category: The Law

Banners Yet Rave

What’s the intersection at which wine and spirits meet cupcakes and Kinder Eggs, Buckyball magnets and Mayor Bloomberg’s Tit Squad? Read on.

If You Know What’s Good for You! is a favorite maternal warning, and it just won’t go away. ‘I’m all grown up now,’ says Thirsty Reader, ‘as are you—able to drink, smoke, vote and die for our country—but it’s the ruling dogma of the Busybody Brigade.’

Of which Michael Bloomberg is chief. The imperial and imperious mayor-proconsul is busy making New York the City of Big Brotherly Love. He dotes on telling citizens what to eat and what to drink, what to do and what to think; does so every chance he gets; never lets the law stand in his way*. Food too salty? Behold Hizzoner’s war on salt. Trans-fats bad? Banned, just like that.

New Yorkers for Beverage Choices seeks to rally those who ingest mass quantities with a website opposing Mayor Mike’s latest bid to control the consumption habits of Gotham’s citizens: nycbeveragechoices.com is the place to go. And 24 oz. is, for some, the way to go.


Now? Supersized sodas. Really. Bake sales have managed thus far to escape the mayor’s regulatory gaze, but the Urge to Control is a strong one. Banners have come down hard on cupcake-hustling mothers in such places as New Mexico, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas. Reigning Food-and-Nutrition VoPo Marla Caplon, who is gauleiter of the S’mores Police in Maryland’s Montgomery County, replies on zealous spies and snitches to stop the snack-pushers: ‘If a bake sale is going on,’ quoth she, ‘it’s reported to Administration and it’s taken care of.’ I love that taken care of, don’t you? Will Caplon call Major Toht [below] out of retirement to round up the nation’s 7.5 million cookie-flogging Girl Scouts? 






It’s easy to make mock here, even an obligation, for bans and banners are part of the Higher Nonsense. [The New Yorker quickly took the mickey out of Mike with a witty cover recalling the lurid 1950s teen movies of the ‘Out for Kicks, In for Trouble’ genre.] But in fact these zealots are dangerous folk, zzzzznycoverrcondenaststore.com
threats to freedom, even or especially when it’s none of their damned business. They thrive in some surprising places. Supposedly liberal New York is actually a Nanny State bastion, so Mayor Mike gets much doltish support. ‘It can’t hurt and it might help’ was a popular, well—it’s hardly an argument, merely a Wistful Sentiment, like Bono’s suggestion that we continue sending aid money to Africa despite most of its’ being stolen by dictators [‘We’ve got to do something, even if it doesn’t work’]. Others say the ban ‘sends a powerful message’. Really? Thirsty says it simply proves the law is a ass. He agrees with Sam Goldwyn: ‘If you want to send a message, call Western Union’. Then there’s ‘If it saves even ONE child . . . .’. Sorry, folks, but your brat is not worth my civil rights.

image  A banner’s wet-dream: Überünterführer Fritz Scheisskopf impounds a contraband-laden Girl Scout van or ‘mule’. Note the large quantity of Double Dutch, the infamous ‘gateway snack’ that can lead to addiction to Thin Mints, Ice Berry Piñatas and Caramel deLites.

Americans’ obsession with bodily health borders on mental illness. Banners know what’s good for you and for your children too, and they will compel obedience by force of law when and if they can and by public shaming and/or abusive taxation when they can’t. Mayor Mike’s naive belief that he can end child obesity is his excuse for treating adults like kids. Bake-sale banners are just as zealous, and now new mothers are being shamed in print for  mammary incorrectness by the self-righteous likes of, for example, Time Magazine scribbler Bonnie Rochman. A breast-feeding zealot, she wrote
‘[my sister-in-law]. . . Rachel knows firsthand how bleep! pushing bleep! can impact an inexperienced mother . . . bleep! offered to give her bleep! a bottle “to make it easier on you.” Exhausted and uncertain, she agreed . . . . “I was a new mom,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing”.’

Rachel, Rachel! How could you? Yes, it looks bad—until you change the bleeps: nurses, formula, a nurse and newborn. So Rachel accepted a bottle of formula. She should throw herself off a bridge?

Rochman says Rachel had always intended to breast-feed, implying that the nurse/pusher has made that impossible. For additional humiliation Rochman spills that Rachel even underwent a C-section, thus inviting the scorn of crackpot Mommy Fanatics who say a C-section and/or a hospital birth means ‘you’re not a REAL mother’. Thanks, Sis! [Aside to young marrieds out there: If you’re getting your parenting advice from Time the Weekly News Pamphlet, consider looking elsewhere.]

Exposed by her sister-in-law for accepting infant formula; shamed for giving birth in a hospital and even having a C-section; dreading mention of the word ‘epidural’; Rachel takes the only way out before a crazed mob of howling Mommy Fanatics and the fortuitous documentary gaze of Camille Pissarro.

Now Mayor Mike wants hospitals to be lactically correct: to deny formula unless there’s medical need or specific requests [even then mothers are subjected to mandatory anti-formula lectures]. Formula must be locked up, like medicines and drugs. Staff will have to sign it out, track its distribution and report to the Health Department. Have I got this right? Woman wants an abortion, she gets it any time for any reason or none at all, but she can’t get formula without a browbeating by Mayor Mike’s Tit Squad? ‘Splain me’, as Ricky Ricardo used to say, how this makes any sense. ‘Splain me how it’s fair, or reasonable, or any of the Dear Leader’s bloody business.

High motives do not justify stupidity. Obesity will not be conquered by banning sodas d’une certaine taille. As for formula: yes, Big Baby—the mighty marketer of kiddy products ranging from ‘smart water’ for toddlers to $700 PAVs**—offers the stuff free in hospitals as a greedy industrial marketing ploy. But are mothers stupid? Unable to decide for themselves? Isn’t it possible that formula could ‘empower’ Dads, as in getting them to take the 2 A.M. feeding? Worked for me.

The lunacy escalates, as you knew it would: Another new mother named Rachel—Weisz—dared to say an occasional glass of was wine OK after the first three months. Know-betters immediately denounced the actress as ill-informed and dangerous, despite significant disagreement [in England and Europe, for example]—and no proof at all that ‘any alcohol is dangerous’. Let me spell out the fall-out: Pregnant women are now being refused wine in American restaurants. Waiters, whose job is, I believe, to carry plates, now offer medical advice. And in one case, compulsion: Chicagoan Michelle Lee was ordered to leave a restaurant when all she’d ordered was pizza and water. But she was pregnant, and that, as people have finally stopped saying, tore it, so out she went. As NOW president Terry O’Neill observed ‘[non-pregnant]people feel increasingly empowered to make decisions for pregnant women’. Ya think? Thus we await the publication of a New Age Dr. Spock written by a soon-to-be-nationally-known cocktail waiter. Baba Wawa and Katie Couric will be all over the guy in six minutes flat, and People magazine will then name him the Most Sensitive Man Alive. Now comes word of a breakthrough: actual pregnancy is no longer necessary. In Canada, a land famous for excess caution, the ink-seeking strivers of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists are now proposing abstention for women who might become pregnant.

The urge to ban has naught to do with fetal health or childhood obesity. It is showing off; it is boasting about one’s sensitivity; it seeks control. It is the fastest way of becoming a Recognized Authority and Public Expert who can attract grants, get jobs and appear on talk-shows run by jackasses. It leads to speaking engagements and book contracts, and in general coins money at the expense of science, common sense and personal freedom.

Beware, Thirsty Reader. Urged on by their limitless array of targets—raw-milk cheese, party balloons [Yeah, right, says Ruth Suehle of geekmom.com, they’re ‘doom on a string!’] as well as whistles, foie gras, bake sales, Harry Potter, energy drinks, wee magnets, Kinder Eggs [60,000 seized last year by U.S. Customs], fireworks and more—banners will get around soon enough to what the WCTU called King Alcohol. They may not be so foolish as to try to bring back Prohibition, but with the glad help of the Studies Industry—that unregulated confederacy of ‘experts’ who can be paid to prove anything—they’ll seek more age restrictions, limits on individual consumption and purchase, abusive, even crippling taxation, and, prominent on every bottle, a grisly graphic warning label. After all, they know what’s good for you, and you don’t.

And if it saves even one life . . . .


*Mayor Mike supported New York’s term-limits law, which helped eliminate at least a few of Gotham’s elected crooks, the idea being that two terms of thievery and incompetence should be enough to satisfy anybody. But then he thought again and, deciding that the city needed him more than it did the law, got his house pet, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, to have the law changed.

**PAVs: Pediatric Assault Vehicles, oversized and overpriced transports that have, because of their enhanced Preening Index, replaced ordinary strollers for Yuppies wishing to impress onlookers with how devoted they are to the kids they routinely leave to the care of underpaid immigrant nannies.

Photo montages courtesy of the peerless Darren Tuozzoli

Zut Alors! Etc. Ad Nauseam

Historically, no one is half so good at clobbering the French as the French themselves. Only recall the Terror and the Paris Commune—or the current pummeling of and in the wine sector.

France is beset by an outbreak of Puritanism, of all things. Health loons want the government to treat wine treated as if it were a drug and ban all wine advertising. In a show of strength, the loons sued a publication that had published a wine review, charging that it thus had encouraged drinking—and they won, too. The National Cancer Institute last year advised teetotal abstinence, saying even very moderate consumption greatly increases the risk of cancer–for some types, by up to 168%. (The High Council for Public Health later officially rejected that recommendation.)

Meanwhile, France’s wine industry is in CTD Mode—as in Circling the Drain. Exports are down 30% over the past 30 years. Domestic consumption is plummeting, especially among the young, and some of the elders who still drink wine are buying imports. That raises the hackles of the CRAV (Comité Régional d’Action Viticole), a league of vinterrorists as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel and just as shadowy, too. (But not overly so, though: they are on Facebook.)

CRAV members are free with their fists and explosives both. They dynamite stores, vandalize rail lines, intimidate shopkeepers, and burn vehicles and warehouses. And by the time les flics arrive they’re gone, safe on the far side of the Gadroon border. (When the cops are in time, they don’t actually do anything except watch, as they are unwilling to interfere with what they call ‘social protest.’) CRAV’s ‘protests’ emphasize their demand that Sarkozy save their hides. They want subsidies and price hikes. They want high tariffs that will bully their fellow citoyens into buying French instead of foreign. And if they don’t get the relief they want? The CRAV does not shrink from saying that there may be blood—and if so, that it will be the government that is to blame. Naturellement: to the nanny-state mind, government relief at someone else’s expense is always the answer.

CRAV fire  A CRAV house-warming in the south of  France: the Tea Party was never like this.


And now like a coup de foudre (bolt from the blue) comes the heresy of Valérie Pajotin, top cork of Anivin, France’s new international marketing arm. Export success, she advises/warns the vignerons, means wine must be made like Coca-Cola. And soon, too. What she means is that it’ll have to be a] an industrial product and b] a crowd-pleaser. In short, enough already with the art of wine-making; with the sanctity of terroir; with the magic of the cellar; with the old attitude ‘We make wine as we wish and you’re lucky if we let you buy any’. Pajotin was clear: To offset spiraling decline at home and abroad, get off ton keisters and make the kind of wine the customers want.

The elite producers—makers of the famous and legendary wines we love so well and can’t afford—will be immune of course, as will probably most of the mid-price crowd. They’re not the ones who can’t shift their goods. But the many who make low-priced stuff that people aren’t buying any more—and there are thousands of them—will be urged, persuaded, encouraged (and some fear forced) to sell their grapes to gigantic wine factories. The factories will then bung them together indiscriminately and produce tsunamic quantities of market-friendly wines priced to delight the glad consumer.

Vindustrial wines, in short, is what they’ll be. They’ll feature varietal labeling, consistent quality and value for money. Nothing fancy, nothing schmancy. Adieu, château names (probably including most of the 50+ that contain the name Figeac); appellations likewise. Instead, under the Vin de France umbrella (itself a replacement for Vin de Table), there are to be just a few readily recognized standard brands. Some will be blends from a single region—but a very large one, not some 500-cases-a-year plot beloved of those in the know. Others will blend fruit from all over France. ‘Assembling wines in this way ensures a consistency of quality which will retain consumer loyalty by offering a constant taste from 1 January to 31 December,’ Ms Pajotin said. ‘It is what happens with consumer brands, such as Coca-Cola.’

This is un coup en traître or stab in the back, some say; they decry the ‘dumbing down’ and even destruction of the AOC system. On the other hand, the legitimacy of not a few appellations is open to doubt. (Recently six on Bordeaux’s Right Bank applied for a new shared appellation that would make it easier to sell their wine. As one member explained, ‘we all make basically the same wine.’ So what were those six appellations all about?)

‘An end to AOC?’ says ‘Stretch’ Léotard, the noted ballet dancer and knuckleball artist. ‘Tant pis! No one even knows how many appellations there are, and yet they are always making new ones, like Bordeaux Premier Cru and Reconnaissance de Cru Bourgeois. They have resuscitated the old Cru Artisans and are about to give new names to four old ones. I wonder will it affect the prices, don’t you?’

Despite the howls, it looks as if Anivin will get its way. French governments are past masters of bureaucratic bullying. The only time they come up short is when the opposition includes labor unions.

Just as well, says my friend and stevedore Gros Tonnage, the rotund and orotund King of the Marseilles Piers: ‘Here in France, the idea of pleasing the customer is a novelty at the best of times and anathema the rest, so quite a few producers are going to get what les rosbifs call the “short, sharp shock.” It will do them good. Since it took them this long to recognize Coca-Cola, I can’t wait till they discover Deux-Buck Chuck.’

Maybe it will all come down to this:


Here endeth the lesson.

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