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Friday Fishwrap
Trouble in Paradise? A Quiet Reminder That More is not Always Better

By Stephen Eliot

We in the business of fine wine would do best to remember that as good as a wine might be, more is not always better.

France is reportedly struggling with a serious spike in binge drinking by its twenty somethings and has blamed it on the besotted English. Among said crowd, there seems to be a growing fashion for getting drunk as quickly as possible via gatherings known as apéro géant parties. Through the use of social networking sites, the parties have attracted thousands of participants, the biggest of which was a gathering in Nantes last Summer. Happily, the worst that seems to have happened in that case was that a few inebriated attendees had to be fished from the Loire River by a pre-positioned boat placed by forward-thinking local authorities.*

Well, drunken hooliganism has apparently come to Sonoma**, and nobody is blaming the British. It is one of those “almost funny” stories, but it really is not. Apparently the hamlet of Healdsburg was beset by what one shop-owner called “incredible drunkenness” during two successive Wine Road Barrel Tasting weekends earlier this month. So bad, it seems, that local Healdsburg merchants are voicing their concerns despite the obvious rise in business that the weekend brings. Kudos to them!

The topic of “sensible” drinking gets a good deal of lip-service in our business, but a reminder for responsibility here and there never hurts. Here, a weekend of barrel tasting seems to have gone wrong, and, if downtown Healdsburg had its problems, I wonder what the highways connecting the 144 participating wineries must have been like.

I’d like to say that this is a rare anomaly for large scale events, but anyone who has stayed to the end of ZAP’s or the Rhone Rangers’ grand tastings or the follow-up public tasting of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition knows otherwise. There will always be a few folks who wander well outside the lines, and their impact always seems to be greater than their numbers.

Overindulgence is always a touchy topic in our business, but being touchy does not mean it should be ignored. I have no more use for the “Always-Say-Yes Permissivists” than I do for “Just-Say-No Prohibitionists”, but I do not want to see anyone hurt. I am certain that same sentiment is shared by all of those who make, review and drink fine wines.

I hope my Friday musings are not likened to the self-serving corporate messages to drink responsibly, which are always muttered in low volume at the end of this or that beer commercial. They have always sounded fairly hollow to me. “Drink responsibly,” (but, please, drink…a lot).

There are new generations of wine drinkers coming along. We hear about them every day, and how they will transform the market. I understand that they do not give a diddle for critics and willfully follow a drum beat of their own. I, for one, hope that they all prosper and ultimately have cellars filled with the very best wines. And I hope they are around to drink them.



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by John
Posted on:3/23/2012 10:22:47 AM

Posted about the same thing last night. As a small producer I find these events a total waste of time and resources, as well as a pointless liability exposure.

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