The Malibu Effect – A Good Friday Ramble

25 Mar

I was walking down to The Morrissey House for my obligatory lunch and two craft beer workout last Friday. As I walked, a car passed me and pulled into a parking spot ahead. “Hyundai has done a great job with that Sonata,” I thought to myself. Then, “No, it’s not a Sonata but maybe a new Chrysler 200?” Then, as I approached the car, I saw “Malibu” on the trunk lid. What? It could have been any of several makes and models of car. Because they all look alike it seems. I’ll call it the Malibu Effect.


It’s not that these cars don’t appeal. I like how the Malibu looks in the picture above. But, why do car makers have to make all their cars look alike? I can’t see creative designers sitting at the drafting table thinking, “How do I get people to mistake our car for another brand?” And, it isn’t just cars. Look at television. I lost interest after CSI: Split Lip Township, Law and Order: Hard Core Truants, and Big Brother Season 62.  I’ve ranted on television before so will drop it now.

So, what does this have to do with wine? I bet you think you know where I’m going. But, “Dude, ya’ll be wrong,” to quote the star of Lefty, the Gator Farmer.

Wine is treated differently and, unfortunately, the same as other products. It’s treated the same, as in it’s a consumer product and many producers use the same business methods to produce and sell the most at the largest margins they can manage. This means that there are a gazillion gallons of wine that taste the same year in year out, look alike, and are priced almost identically. Safe wines to sell to safe consumers for sustainable margins. But, you don’t have to buy them. That’s the point. Wine is special. Why?

1 – There are a zillion kinds of wine made from a zillion wine grapes providing different experiences. Oh yeah, and we can afford it

I read somewhere that there are 1,000 different varieties of grapes. And whoever said that was wrong. Because there are 2,700 different varieties. And if you believed that, you’d be wrong because there are 10,000 varieties. I learned all this from the internet. Hence, the confusion. Rather than quibble over a few thousand grape varieties, let’s agree that there are a shitload of different grapes that can be and are made into wine.

Cariñena still on the Vine - Sao del Coster - Gratallops

Cariñena – Sao del Coster – Gratallops

And, we get to drink wine made from different grapes tasting like what that grape or blend of grapes, the region, the climate for that vintage, and the idiosyncrasies/talents of the winemaker decide for us. We don’t have to partake in the wine equivalent of meat and potatoes every night.

2 – Wine can’t be made to taste the same if it’s made from grapes grown in different regions

With wine, there are no global brands or labels. Think about this. If you walk into a store in the UK, you probably will see Coca-Cola and Budweiser, etc. Those are US brands in my mind. But they are brands brewed under licence in the UK. Same holds for many other countries. And, although there may be subtle differences in flavour profile, these products are many times locally produced and taste the same everywhere. If you were to order a Goose Island IPA here in Canada it would have been brewed in London, Ontario by Labatt’s. Not Chicago? Nope. This is what I mean. Even craft beer is compromised by this globalization.

With wine, you will still see some of the same labels but that product is not made locally – it’s imported. Why? One reason – the food scientists in their white coats and pointy little heads haven’t turned their attention to wine yet, thank God. Right? Wrong, there are scores of ways that those nasty food scientists are already screwing with wine to make it consistent as if that’s a lofty goal. Right now that’s the exception, hopefully, and fodder for another ramble.

Corollary to #2 – Most grape varieties cannot thrive in every climate. This renders global brands, made locally, a tough task

You can’t even grow the same grapes in different climates. Well, you can. It just doesn’t end well. Take for instance how long it’s taken for Niagara wineries to just give up on some major grape varieties as anything other than a blender. When wineries ‘push the envelop’, these experiments become nothing other than an oddity or a quirk of a particular winery. “We are making Blaufränkisch in Virginia great again,” from a Trump winery news release. BTW, I read that right below their pledge to deport any and all Malbecs – “until we find out what the hell is going on.”

3 – Region-specific cultural and commercial history Trumps (last one, promise) group think. Folks don’t want the same things in every country. How else to explain cod cheeks in St. John’s?

Not everyone wants the Coca-Cola of wine, whatever that is. I think much of that has to do with culture, experience, agriculture, and history. Italians prefer Italian wine. Catalonians want their wine. If everyone sticks to this, there will always be loads of variety in wine. We get the benefit of this (and don’t shoot me for supporting the monopoly but) because we have a supplier that provides us with lots of options. Not true choice but options.

So, that leaves us with a spectacular and high classed problem – What To Drink?

OK, I see comments accruing below. They foolishly take issue. They decry the trend in homogenizing wine. “Bill, who can taste the difference between Fuzion Malbec and Skinny Girl Malbec? Or, Naked Cab and Naked Merlot? Wine is starting to all taste the same!” First, I have to say that I’m looking forward to Naked Skinny Girl Malbec – that sounds relish and label might be fun. Second, relax folks. I admit there’s a trend and maybe the big aisles are taken up with some of those clones. But, where was I? Oh yeah, – What To Drink?

boone's farmYou cannot go wrong. If you want to drink the same thing (or something that tastes the same as the same thing) every night, do it. I accept that people should drink what they love; even if they’re completely wrong most of the time. I’m tolerant of the unwashed masses. I’m sure some of them are good people. Definitely last Trump reference.

But, if you want to try real stuff – better stuff, you only have to wander to the mother ship and walk down one of the over merchandised aisles, close your eyes, and pick something out.  Wait, wait, wait I see that you’ve mistakenly picked out a wine that tastes the same every year and exactly like many others in this aisle. I told you there were some of those. So, put it back, step away from the Barefoot Peach Samba/Boone’s Farm Peach Samba section and walk to the Vintages section. It’s pretty safe there. Try again. Now there you go, you’ve got a slim bottle of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sweating in your palm – site specific and completely unlike the Cremant d’Alsace in your other hand. Either way, you win. They won’t be Malibus.

Unfortunately, like Malibus and Sonatas, wine only comes in a few colours. What’s with that? I want a silver wine.





2 Responses to “The Malibu Effect – A Good Friday Ramble”

  1. Michelle Williams March 26, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    Can a get an hallelujah and an amen!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. okiewinegirl2015 March 26, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    Agreed! Beige isn’t my favorite color either!

    Liked by 1 person

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