The Wine Curmudgeon by Jerry D. Mead

Wine Kills Bacteria

In keeping with The Wine Curmudgeon's promise to begin this generally grouchy column with at least one good news item, we'll draw your attention to yet one more scientific study saying that wine really, really is good for you.

In a study reported on in the British Medical Journal, and conducted at West Virginia University by Martin Weisse, M.D., the truth of biblical proverbs and folk lore of many centuries standing were proven true.

"A little wine for thy stomach's sake.." Science says yes! Wine can protect you from bad food? Maybe it can. Wine can save you from a tainted oyster? Wine can prevent diarrhea ? It may well do so.

Here are the facts. Red and white wine proved superior to all other solutions against the three bacteria tested, salmonella, shigella and E coli. Wine was even better than bismuth salicylate (the active ingredient in PeptoBismol) against the most common causes of traveler's diarrhea. The Pepto worked to kill the bacteria, but took three to four times as long.

Pure alcohol and Tequila were also tested and both were less effective, so it's something more in wine that just the alcohol doing the good thing.

Science has overwhelmingly demonstrated that wine is good for our hearts ... now there's proof that it's good for our tummies, too.

Not Sad About Madd

TWC cannot honestly express displeasure with the fact that the Los Angeles chapter of MADD has been forced to close its main office and lay off all its full time employees, this according to a story in the Los Angeles Times sent to us by media watchdog Richard Elwood.

The reason for the closing and firings is simple economics according to the report. It seems that for the past several years the MADD mothers have increased their number of solicitations by nearly eight times, while the numbers of responses and dollars have dwindled even with the added hustling.

A spokesperson said, "Maybe it's the competing charities." Another MADD type said, "MADD had its day in the spotlight. But it's dark now."

TWC suspects the root of the problem may go deeper than competing charities. It just might be that folks are wising up that MADD's philosophy stepped over the line from trying to keep drunks off the road years ago, and is now a fullfledged anti-alcohol organization condoning bans on advertising, restricted hours of sale, BACs lowered into the unimpaired range and lots of other stuff.

TWC looks for more chapters to face the same kind of withering and drying up from lack of funds.

Conflict Of Interest?

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, The Wine Spectator quit buying stories from a number of well known wine scribes based on the suggestion that there might be some conflict of interest involving their winery associations, accepting free trips, accommodations, consulting, or being involved in the wine trade in one way or another.

That policy changed almost immediately with the buying of manuscripts from European writers who were also in the wine trade, but The Spectator continued to ballyhoo its independence, insistence on its writers paying their own way, etc ... and did establish a European bureau, etc.

One has to wonder what a recent association might do to The Spectator's claims of no-conflict. And to the credibility of the group who entered into the questionable arrangement with WS.

It seems that the latest tour/tastings/seminars being organized by The Napa Valley Vintners is "In Cooperation with The Wine Spectator."

TWC understands through reliable sources that this involves WS providing free advertising in exchange for a presence at each of the shows, wherein WS will hustle magazines, books etc.

Now we wouldn't suggest that WS would color its editorial to favor its new business partner, nor that members of The Napa Valley Vintners would expect any special consideration as a result of the arrangement ... but as a very wise old editor once told me ... the illusion of propriety is even more important than the reality.

One reality is this ... other journalists, publications and publishers are not going to feel comfortable at a pro gram that is co-sponsored by a major competitor, and some people are bound to question the propriety of the association even if everyone is as conflict free as is possible considering.

Would TWC enter into the same kind of arrangement for The Wine Trader if he had the clout to swing it? You whang-dang betchum Red Ryder .. but TWC doesn't do a lot of bragging about how pure are his business ethics and how free from conflict he is. Am I saying I'm a crook? Of course not, I've told folks for years that I take the samples, the trips, whatever, and then write whatever I damn well feel like. You have to be the judge of whether I pull that off with credibility and honor.

Napa Valley Vintners ... not smart!

WS ... put up or shut up in the holier than thou arena.

Wine Shipping A Felony?

Kentucky residents should be aware of the corrupt actions of its legislators under pressure from the s'tate's liquor monopoly, specifically the beer distributors and the spirits wholesalers.

It has always been against the law for Kentucky residents to order beer or wine shipments from out of state, and conversely illegal for anyone to ship into Kentucky. But the current law is a misdemeanor and basically unenforceable across state lines.

As of this writing the Kentucky house has passed a bill and a senate committee has passed it on, that would make shipping to a resident of Kentucky a felony and therefore an extraditable offense. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal individual violators could receive up to five years in jail and corporations could be fined up to $20,000 per offense.

Relax!, if you live in Kentucky.. there are zero provisions for penalizing the person doing the buying. It's sort of like vice laws, persecute the seller (the prostitute) and cut the buyer (the john) loose. May I point out the seller wouldn't be shipping the stuff if a buyer from Kentucky hadn't ordered the merchandise.

Still unclear after reading several news reports and a copy of the proposed law itself is what penalties might apply to individuals shipping wine as a gift or as a favor to friends living in Kentucky. Wouldn't that be something? Send a friend a bottle of Champagne to celebrate some occasion and end up doing five years in the slammer for it?

Oh! Worked into this same piece of legislation, sponsored (and no doubt written) by the wholesale monopoly, is a primary source law which guarantees their monopoly in perpetuity It means every bottle of anything must go through them and come from an authorized producer or other middleman to them, assuring all the mark-ups the consumer can possibly stand. It makes it illegal for large discount operations to buy direct from suppliers thereby providing consumers with lower prices, and it also makes so-called grey- market buying, that has saved consumers thousands of dollars in other markets, illegal.

All in all, TWC would say that Kentucky is acting anti-consumer and un-American. The liquor monopoly and its enablers, the "for sale" politicians, will keep this stuff up just as long as consumers stand quietly by and let it happen. If Kentuckians want a name to focus their anger on, try Rep. Jim Callahan of Southgate, the bill's sponsor. Make a little noise.

Chinese Tougher Than Kentuckians

TWC mentioned that Kentucky is threatening to make shipping wine to its citizens from another state a felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison. A winemaker from the southern province of Guangxi, according to Reuthers, was executed for; his winemaking ... never mind it contained poisonous methanol and killed eight people, blinded three others and seriously injured another four. A total of 58 people were harmed by his evil concoction. Now there's a wine crime worth being a felony

Letters To The Curmudgeon...

TWC a Bigot?

Dear TWC,

Governor Petaki vetoed the reciprocal shipping bill you referred to in the last issue of Wine Trader.

There was an awful lot of misinformation thrown about regarding the issue, and specifically, the bill. It all led of course to the governor supporting the status quo.

We don't call this The Empire State for nothing-the Byzantine Empire, that is.

Speaking of ancient societies, I found distasteful your answer to the letter from "Anonymous Wholesaler" in which you correlate broken kneecaps with Italians. I never figured you for one who stupidly believes that all Italians are members of the Mafia.

Aren't you aware of both the power of words and the insidious nature of stereo-typing? Don't help the racists and bigots among us justify their beliefs. And if you don't straighten out your attitude ... well, you get my drift. Perhaps I could get Gallo or Mondavi or Martini or Parducci or Pedroncelli or Sebastiani to do something to your wine.

Tomaso Pellechia
Hammondsport, New York

Dear Tomaso,
You are right, I never believed that all Italians are members of the Mafia. On the other hand (a Black Hand?) it seems reasonable to think that most Mafia members are Italian. Nothing personal, anymore than the redneck incest jokes that get made about people from Arkansas where I was born. (Did you hear about the 14 year old girl who divorced her husband? Does that mean they aren't still brother and sister?) Some stereotypes have too much basis in fact to be ignored, especially by old codgers like TWC who refuse to pay attention to political correctness. Who doesn't know an Irishman with a big red nose who drinks one dram too many, or a Japanese who's a camera bug. Of course, everyone with a Japanese heritage doesn't take pictures (though I haven't met the one who didn't) and I'm sure there are sober Irish, just as more gangsters and criminals are not Italian than are. You will find that TWC is an equal opportunity "bigot," if bigot he be, and that there isn't a malicious bone in his wine soaked body towards any race, creed or ethnic background. (You oughta hear the hell I catch from Dan Berger for telling Jewish jokes!)

Oh! I do have a couple of prejudices ... bureaucrats and politicians. With them I get malicious!

-T. W. C.

Defending Florida

Dear Mr. Mead,

I was entertained by your comments in the Holiday Edition of The Wine Trader regarding the State of Florida's position on the illegal shipment of wine into Florida. It again showed me that regardless of right and wrong, it is possible to defend any position if you so choose.

Surely it comes as no surprise to you that it is a "privilege" granted by the State of Florida to sell alcoholic beverages within it's state lines. With this privilege goes the responsibility of following the laws that cover every facet of our business. The fact that you chose to advocate ignoring not only the laws of Florida, but of other states and suggest that the illegal shipment of untaxed wine over state boundaries is a responsible act, is appalling. .

As a retailer in Florida, our business philosophy is to compete responsibly within the laws and regulations that govern our industry, fully understanding why these regulations exist and the consequences for not adhering to them. It is our policy NOT to ship wine outside the State of Florida and find no justification for your position advocating shipments of untaxed paid wine into Florida.

As Director Harris has pointed out to you, it is possible for anyone who wishes to engage in a fair retail competitive environment to purchase a retail alcoholic beverage license from the state, invest in property, building, and personnel and sell alcoholic beverages. I hope that you will provide me with a response to my comments.


Charles H. Bailes, III
President and C.E.O.
ABC Fine Wines & Spirits
Orlando, Florida

Dear Mr. Bailes,
While I can understand your wanting to protect your little (actually not so little) monopoly, what I don't understand is a businessman who isn't looking to compete freely in the broadest possible market. Imagine how much fine wine you could sell as gifts at Christmas time, or Father's or Mother's Day, the various Jewish holidays or whatever? And gift givers tend to order the good stuff ... expensive Champagnes, Ports and cellar-worthy reds, if only you could deliver for your customers to their friends in other states. And since no one is actually from Florida, they all have friends and family back in Jersey or wherever to give to.

And I promise to stop encouraging people to break Florida's laws by shipping wine to its citizens just as soon as you explain a few things to me: Why should this one food product, out of all food products, be so restricted? Why can I buy onions from Hawaii or Georgia? All kinds of fresh fruit from Harry & David in the Pacific Northwest? Beefsteaks from Omaha? Chocolates from Maison du Chocolat in New York? Or olive oil or truffles from Corti Bros. in California? But I cannot buy a bottle of fermented grape juice from just about anywhere?

Why can I legally bring in cases of wine on a 747 from Paris, but not a bottle in the trunk of my Cadi from a neighboring state?

Why can't I insist that no magazines be sold in my state unless they're published here? Why doesn't the state of Florida try to stop any other mail order businesses from selling goods in Florida? Why doesn't the state of Florida prosecute its citizens who order the wine from out of state. If shipping wine is illegal, then soliciting someone to do so must be illegal too. Or is it a little like prostitution ... the "screwee" gets busted while the "screwer" goes free?

Why is Florida so concerned about wine taxes it doesn't collect from out of state sales, when it doesn't collect taxes on any other kind of out-of-state sale?

And finally, if you as a merchant are doing a good job of offering a broad selection of popular brands at fair prices, why would anyone be crazy enough to buy wine out of state and pay a mini mum $25 a case air freight to get it?

Instead of fighting free trade you should get on the bandwagon and benefit from an open market.

P.S. As regards Director Harris, he speaks out of both of his mouths. He offers to help vintners comply with Florida law, when he knows there is no way for them to comply, aside from doing the bricks and mortar thing in Florida. It's the equivalent of telling me I can't mail my magazine to Florida citizens unless I open an office there. That's un-American, to be sure, and is probably unconstitutional.

But Harris may end up being the hero of free enterprise and open trade. His heavy-handed actions against the Free Wine Seven (and since then with his threatening letters to many small wineries) may finally force the industry to get its act together and take the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Wouldn't that be ironic? If legally harassing those out-of-state merchants opened the doors all the way to free enterprise?!

-T. W. C.

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