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Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Grapes of Wrath

posted by on June 17 at 8:46 AM

A shadowy group in France has issued the French government with an unusual ultimatum: raise the price of wine or blood will flow.

They’re called Crav, they’re radicalized winemakers, and they’re pissed. Apparently, life is hard these days in the Languedoc. There are vinters on welfare, vinters killing themselves, and now a vinters’ terrorist organization.

From the BBC: “Already, several local supermarkets selling foreign wines have been attacked with small explosive devices, with others graffitied with the Crav’s initials.” In an article in Decanter, a French manager for Gallo says his sales staff keeps getting beaten up.

A still from their video threat to the president looks like something from Baghdad:


‘If Sarkozy does not support the interests of the wine industry, he will be entirely responsible for what happens,’ a spokesman in the video said. ‘We are at the point of no return.’

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Capitalism is a rough game isn't it? Not everyone wants to play. I suppose crap like this is the result of people believing it is their god given right to make money or something. Soon terrorist networks of American motorists are probably going to be taking service stations hostage because cheap gas is in our constitution right? People need to get the fuck over their entitlement issues.

Posted by JessB | June 17, 2007 8:42 AM

Jesus the French are lazy. If it's not student riots protesting legislation that gives employers at-will firing power (which American employers have had implicitly for forever), it's terrorism for protectionist economic policies regarding domestic wine.

Posted by Jason Petersen | June 17, 2007 8:53 AM

Wow! I wonder if their next target will be French A.A. meetings?

Posted by rich | June 17, 2007 8:54 AM

Jason. The concept of at will employment's purchase in the States and the behavior of the French don't lend themselves in the least to legitimizing how shitty the idea itself is. Entitlement (bootstrappst buzz word though it may be) does often go way too far but people need jobs and they deserve some security. Last I checked, you're still likely to get a shitty refernce if you don't give 2 weeks notice but nobody ever tells you that you've got 2 weeks to find a new job because they don't like how you smell or you're gay or a christian or a happy monday type or whatever horrible thing it is the employer can't handle.

OK, but these French wine terrorists? Fuckin' chiefs. Now I've seen it all. This plays better as an absurdist prank. I wish Vonnegut would've lived to see this shit. Can you vomit and laugh at the same time? Wow.

Posted by Just...Wow | June 17, 2007 9:11 AM

Please forgive my shitty grammar. It's 9am, I'm still drunk, I have a 7th grade education and the prison guards are rushing me out of the law library as I type this.

Posted by Just...Wow | June 17, 2007 9:14 AM

mrs. solomon & i are doing everything we can to support the french wine industry.

and the american, spanish, portugese, italian, argentinian, german, austrian, & australian wine industries.

Posted by maxsolomon | June 17, 2007 9:30 AM

Just another move in the ludicrous chess game of French agriculture. "Raising the price of wine" is exactly the WRONG thing to do, as it is already too expensive to compete on the world market. Familiar with the EU "wine lake"?

This isn't Latour we're talking about here; it's the oceans of nasty undrinkable plonk produced in vast areas that were never meant to grow wine grapes, but do, because of the warped economics of French ag, already the most subsidized in the world.

Posted by Fnarf | June 17, 2007 9:31 AM

by the way, i support beating up Gallo sales staff. that's not even wine. fucking Franzia BS.

Posted by maxsolomon | June 17, 2007 9:32 AM

"This plays better as an absurdist prank." I think you just meant to say French there...

Personally I mostly drink Walla Walla wine, becasue its local which is awesome and honestly its a lot better then most French wines I have had. Cheaper too.

Posted by Giffy | June 17, 2007 10:16 AM

Hilarious and scary like an artsy movie..

Posted by a | June 17, 2007 10:45 AM

Gallo is not "Franzia shit"; Franzia box "wine" isn't even wine, it's grain alcohol with wine flavoring. Gallo is a huge company, and sells a lot of junk, but they make a lot of good stuff too, and are absolutely central in the development of the American wine biz.

Walla Walla is a promising area but is hardly developed yet. Unfortunately too many producers there fall into the category of "rich dudes tax-sheltering their money with ornate winery buildings" rather than "experts trying to express terroir". The experts are flown in, which means the wines are trendy -- feverishly ripping up that Merlot to plant more Pinot Noir -- and overextracted and overoaked. That's an oversimplification but it hits close to the mark.

I think a Walla Walla "style" is still fifty years away, much longer if they don't get creative and experimental. The worst thing that could happen is Australianization (hyperextracted, hyperirrigated, hyperindustrialized). Hopefully they will pay more attention to the likes of Randall Grahm (newly ensconced in Richland) than the Hugh Rymans.

Until then and probably after good French wine will continue to reign supreme, at virtually all price points. The French may have their protectionist faults, but they know how to make wine, and have the best materials to work with. And they don't irrigate (it's against the law).

Posted by Fnarf | June 17, 2007 11:34 AM

They're fighting the terroirists over there so we don't have to fight them here...

I don't get the move to pinot noir. It's tough to work with, prone to nasty vegetable flavors, and when you make one that has good varietal character most people won't like it much.

Posted by greg | June 17, 2007 3:26 PM

Those crazy French people having their own values and not having utter faith in America's neo-liberal model for the world!

Silly silly people with funny accents and their backwards antics. When will those topsy turvy Franks learn?

Starvation is sometimes the price you have to pay for living in a free market world!

Posted by Jay | June 17, 2007 3:33 PM

Heer in Stuttgart, Joseph like drinke wine from local vines, but somtime French wine hit my spot. I beliefe wine pepel intitled make good waje for suport familie. But heer my point: If a countrie can make somthing, it have right not allow othar countrie ship in same stuff at low prise, as long as peepel support. By way, onse Joseph lost cork of wine bottel. If this hapen at you, take peice of chese, cut in right shape, use as cork. Yes chese get dry, but nexte time drop chese cork in wine glas. Chese infuzed wine have good taste.

Posted by Joseph | June 17, 2007 5:21 PM

Starvation? If anyone's starving, it sure as hell ain't French farmers. The ones in the article are upset because their free ride is coming to an end, and they won't be able to sell ten cents worth of wine to the government for ten euros anymore, so that it can be poured into the sea or distilled into industrial alcohol for cars and machinery.

Pinot Noir is easy to explain: the movie "Sideways" made it trendy. It's a pity, because for 90% of consumers a boring characterless Merlot is actually a much better, more reliable choice at the pizza-restaurant level. But then wine in America has never been a food product, but rather a status product, denoting that one has arrived in the ruling class and has tastes to match. It doesn't matter what it tastes like.

Posted by Fnarf | June 17, 2007 5:28 PM

They expect Sarkozy's government to help them? That's a laugh.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 17, 2007 5:32 PM

Yeah Fnarf, I'm sure you really understand the situation of the farmers comprehensively. Certainly, they're just blind to your economic model and lack your ideological certainty about how the world works. Of course they must be whining, because neo-liberalism and unfettered free markets can only do good.

Posted by Jay | June 17, 2007 6:02 PM

Let us also not forget that the American way is a flawless model for the world, and you must be lazy if you want leisure time.

Posted by Jay | June 17, 2007 6:03 PM

Sorry to be a stickler, but the word for a winemaker is vintner. Vinter is ze season ven it is cold und nussink grows.

Posted by Andy | June 17, 2007 6:08 PM

Sorry to be a stickler, but the word for a winemaker is vintner. Vinter is ze season ven it is cold und nussink grows.

Also, vintner terrorists is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of since I read the list of recipients of the Golden Space Needle awards.

Posted by Andy | June 17, 2007 6:09 PM

Jay, stop being simple. Farmers do not have the right to grow crops that are not profitable. They dont have the right to force the government to pay them to grow crops that are not profitable.

And stop being a dichotomous boob.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 18, 2007 12:25 AM


If the government owes farmers anything, it's to retrain them to do something else if or when they lose their farms. Agricultural subsidies in this country haven't exactly been a great success, unless you own an agribusiness. Just ask Mexican subsistence farmers about that.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 18, 2007 7:01 AM

Andy @ 19 - THANK YOU. And come on, guys, learn to spell words before you use them.

Posted by Urs | June 18, 2007 9:01 AM

I'm well aware that American agriculture is over-subsidized and also very much aware of the fate dealt to subsistence farmers in Mexico. That's really not what I was talking about.

#21: Oh yes rights. Rights are defined by what 18th and 19th century political economists decided were rights. You're right. Farmers don't have rights to government support. Much in the same way you don't really have a right to private property and I don't really have the right to privacy. Technically, there is no scientific foundation for rights at all. It's clear to me you believe that rights exist and for whatever reason you can determine what they are while the rest of us can't. Liberal philosophy isn't the last word on what rights are and who has them. I say every citizen has the right to petition their government for support, I believe that people have the right to security. See, how subjective that is?

Give me an persuasive ethical and moral argument for why I should believe the rights guaranteed in the US constitution are any more "real" than the rights the farmers think they're fighting for. You confuse inalienable rights with the concept of law and the liberal tradition.

Is that un-dichotomous enough for you?

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