Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Inside baseball" talk -- about wine

In all the rush of the holiday season working retail liquor (yay! six weeks of six-day weeks!), I had forgotten to tell you about the attractive lady ambassador representing an extremely prestigious Napa winery, and what she told us.

She told us about her winery's experiments with biodynamic farming. It turns out that there is, the winemaker thinks (I emphasize: the winemaker thinks), not much in it. He tried the buried-horn-of-cow-dung, moon cycle rituals, and found that his best grapes were unimproved. Grapes in need of some improvement might have benefited by anything, so he sensibly did not try the practices on them. Hurrah for actual scientific thinking. And good question, from the man in the back row.

Yet the winery keeps on farming biodynamically. Why? The ambassadress' explanation seemed to me extraordinary. It's so honest that it almost can't be honest.

She said they maintain the rituals in the vineyard because the Mexican workers, "Mexican-American," she quickly corrected herself, like them. They are Catholic, she said, or "very religious." They believe in ... God, "or Mother Nature, whatever you want to call it." And so they like the ....

Her explanation couldn't help but trail off, because it was approaching on to attitudes that surely must be taboo to say. What, Mexicans like superstitious rituals? They like theatrical tasks which make them feel close to the land? Why, because they're primitives? Why is it all right to not tell them this labor is meaningless?

I hope the intelligent vineyard staff are in fact laughing up their sleeves at being paid to do crazy work. I suspect the truth under this startling honesty is that the attractive ambassadress, the winemaker and everybody else in charge of this wealthy Napa combine, farm biodynamically because they like it. They believe in "Mother Nature or whatever" and they like theatrical, close-to-the-earth rituals. Or they are selling their wine to people who like it, which is just smart business. At any rate we needn't blame the Mexicans, or worse, some vague idea of peasantry. The intelligent and laughing vineyard staff would probably prefer to skip the moonlight pruning and the dung horns, get home earlier, and go on Facebook like everybody else.  

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