Tag Archives: #MWWC14

#MWWC14 – Screw Tradition

26 Jan

wine-stain1-3There’s a self-abusive yet strangely entertaining monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. This month the theme is “Tradition”. Now, before you suggest that it may seem unfair that I’d choose the theme and then write a post. I feel like I have something to say about traditions in wine. I read with interest The Food and Wine Hedonist’s take on the theme of “Tradition” – traditions with wine that we should keep and ones that we should discard. The Drunken Cyclist spoke of three overdue traditions. You can read it here. It got me to thinking, “There sure are some very bad wine traditions that need changing. Let’s form a protest group”

First let me say, that I am of the generation that had the luxury of protest without consequence. Protest was valued. We marched on Parliament Hill to protest the War Measures Act carefully watched by soldiers with really big guns. We protested the Vietnam War by traveling south and joining even though our connection to it in Canada was  based on friendships with conscientious objectors, dodgers, and deserters in our dorm. We marched against subdivisions being built at the expense of trees, and we protested the rise of tuition to, wait for it……… gasp….$600 a year! These weren’t necessarily all big protests but we saw the establishment as something not to be trusted. There even was a saying, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” And, we believed it. The truth? We were mostly privileged white kids in the age of the sexual revolution and acid. I won’t tell you if I participated in either but that might be why I seem to talk about wine in terms of it’s acidity and Italian actresses. Ya think?

Protest is viewed differently now. How does Occupy get ignored, dismissed and fizzle out while the 1% is still the 1% and at the same time, we’re making movies glorifying protest moments like Selma? What does this have to do with tradition and wine? I’m glad you asked.

There are numerous traditions in wine that we need to change. And change doesn’t come easily. We need to force change through taking up arms, throwing tea overboard, taking a petition, non-violent protest, or if you’re a Canadian, seeking compromise and then after that fails asking politely. OK, pour me a glass of heavily taxed wine…….here goes.

The tradition that I want to change is government monopoly wine sales. For me, this Liquor Control Board of Ontario tradition started when I turned 17 (age of majority was 21) and I strolled into the local LCBO, with fake ID, to pick up a very cheap  ’mickey’ of rye –  an acquired taste for sure. You had to fill out a form with the stock number of the product you wanted and hand it to a clerk who walked back into the stock room finally emerging with your bottle wrapped in a plain brown paper bag. Then, I coolly sauntered out to the car full of my buddies with a big smile on my face. Oh, I was cool – passing for 21, man. Now, if the acne would just behave.

The LCBO is significantly more user friendly now. But, we still go to the LCBO instead of Bubba’s Liquors and Hastymart. I can’t speak for every jurisdiction where this happens but I can talk about our elephant mother ship.

First let me say that there probably isn’t a state run liquor agency that runs a better business than our dear LCBO. In almost every community, they provide a good selection of wine, craft beer, and hard liquor. They are clean, well staffed, and have reasonable hours and locations (shout out to Washago – Wahoo!). They have regular glossies with stories of wine and the people that make it. The point isn’t what they do. It’s what they can’t do or won’t do.

Ontarians want to be able to order wines that we want. When we want them. Not just from the current in-store stock or on-line shopping offerings! We want a salesperson to sell us wine – help us connect with available wines, try and get what I want or point me in the direction of fulfillment elsewhere.

We want tasting events that don’t start and stop at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) but serve the needs of all Ontarians! We all vote don’t we? I’m doing my best to put London wine consumption on the data map and want a reward. Why can’t I taste the Bordeaux Futures in advance in London?

We want to be able to get delivery to our house not the nearest LCBO outlet. Even if it means that it’s delivered while we’re still in our housecoats at 2 pm (TMI?).

And, most importantly, we want our own guy! Now, there are guys and gals at the mother ship but really do you develop a real relationship with them. Do they know the last 4 digits of your over-the-limit credit card? I think not. We want a Steve, who just happens to be a wine freak (this you can tell from the faint odour of 2000 Chateau Lagrange emanating from his pores – Steve has good taste). I want Steve to help me understand the wines that are on the shelves.

And, maybe most importantly, (wait I already said that but I mean it this time), we want to see more of our Ontario wines available. Maybe have a store in town that offers Ontario wines only and not at the supermarket check out?

And, I get that the price is a bitch here. I’m not even asking for lower prices on wine. What? I repeat, I don’t care about the prices we pay in Ontario. I mean we have to pay for universal health care and lousy transit.

Here’s the problem with the LCBO meeting our demands. They can’t. If they could have, they’d have done it already. They are big, rule bound, and big. And, they’re big. Built for big – cookie cutter big. There are certain truths about big. One: it isn’t small.

Small strains to meet customer demands because if they don’t, they’re dead.

Small is Steve spending time with you to talk about a new winery that he’s discovered and brought in to try; “Here Bill, try a bit of this excellent Aglianico from Campania.”…………”yes Bill, I guess you can have a second glass.”

Small is developing relationships with a few Ontario wineries and bringing in the stuff that is hard to get to promote local excellence – not in all 450 stores – just at Steve’s.

Small is having tasting events at a location (like London!) that big data wouldn’t support with the goal of broadening the acceptance and interest in wine. Build it and maybe they’d come.

Small is extending some credit to a regular customer like yours truly. I mean some of us need a fix of Gran Reserva Rioja and are waiting on our monthly cheque.

ratSo, what can we do to get what we want? Well, protest. Did you read the top of the post? Vote the issue. Sign a petition. Write your member of the legislature. Vote the issue (did I say that already?). And, this might just do it, support alternative access to wine. That means buying from wineonline.ca, ordering through an agent, smuggling, buying directly from the winery. I know that the LCBO still probably gets a cut as they have to warehouse every drop of beverage alcohol in Ontario, it seems. A rant for another time. Or, meet me this Saturday morning at 9:30 am at the Masonville LCBO. Bring your placards with WE WANT STEVE on them. If I’m late, start without me.

So, that’s the tradition that I want to drop kick to the curb. I think that we still need a retailer like the LCBO. I get that we make thousands of billions of tax dollars through these franchises. And, I’m not too fussed about simply exchanging the LCBO for huge retailers like Costco (a rant for another time). But, I want some competition that provides what they can’t.  I want some of the things that small could bring. How about this compromise? And I did say that was a Canadian’s first choice. Why not allow Steve to set up shop in Old North London within walking distance of my house? Steve’s Wines. Please. That’s asking politely. And, warning – I might discuss this again.

Now, all we need is a protest song………..

“Imagine there’s a Steve’s

It’s easy if you try

Below us only wine cellar

Above us only sky

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one?”

I’m kind of stuck there. Help me out.



Nudge, Nudge #MWWC14 – Tradition

20 Jan

wine-stain1-3Just a reminder that the time is running out on #MWWC14. Here are the rules. The theme this month is “Tradition”. Having chosen the theme, I feel somewhat compelled to nag. Oh, yeah, of course to help…..and nag. In that spirit, here are some great ideas to break writer’s block.

You could talk about your traditional bottle opening techniques. Say for example, you always open your Clos Vougeot by expertly wielding the corkscrew you picked up on a jaunt to Beaune. It always causes memories to flood in. That day you were lost on a narrow twisty street and stumbled into a little store for directions. Your eye caught sight of an unusual corkscrew on the counter. The owner, a small man in traditional French attire (worn jeans and crumpled linen shirt) who spoke no English saw your interest and insisted you take it gratis. That night you opened your first bottle of Clos Vougeot (was it a 1990?) with your newfound tool. Epiphany. Since then, you always laugh about that wonderful day and the corkscrew. And, you use only that corkscrew for overpriced Burgundy.

Cool tradition? No? Not helping?

How about this? You could tell a wine making tradition. For example, how each and every year on the remote island of Pentalleria prior to the harvest of the rare varietal “Usaxelaun” (yes, it is a grape), the vineyard workers at Chateau Demento partake in a feast of mushrooms dug from the roots of chestnut trees. Magic mushrooms. At midnight, they dizzily and confusedly climb the treacherous cliffs to pick the perfectly ripe grapes on the terraces above. In the dark they deposit the grapes in wicker baskets that were made in the 6th century by prisoners. Why not stay straight, pick in the daytime, and use a harvester and crates? Tradition, of course. Well, that and a meal of magic mushrooms, duh.

Last idea and stay with me on this. When people come to your house they always bring wine because you are a ‘wine guy’ and you’re easy. In the beginning, you opened the wine they brought as soon as they were seated – as a courtesy and an effort to show that you are not a snob (but you really are). But (choose one): the wine was usually bad; the gesture did nothing to dispel the belief that you are a snob (BTW, you are); or, you didn’t want the homeless bottle collectors that go through your recycling bin to doubt your wine street cred – heck, they’d stop reading your blog. In any event, you decided that something else must be done with these host/hostess gifts. You can’t drink them. So, you stockpile turduckenthese full bottles. And then every Thanksgiving before you sit down to your meal of Kobe beef, turducken, and organic kale (another tradition), you gather up the kids and trudge down to the local Food Bank with several cases of wine. Wine is groceries, you know (Quote credit to Richard Betts). You’re all about setting a positive example to those formative young minds. Each and every Easter, yup. Why? Tradition.

So, that’s enough of me writing your entries for you. Brilliant ideas that you’re welcome to plagiarize. But, I have to keep some ideas for myself. Come on, get to work! If you’ve thought about entering the challenge in the past and thought, “But, I don’t think that I can compete against these other bloggers.” Hell, I won last month and you’ve read this post. Go for it. You can read about the challenge and again the rules here.

Good luck.


#MMMC14 – Tradition

22 Dec

wine-stain1-3There’s a self-abusive yet strangely entertaining monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Last month the theme for #MWWC13 was “Serendipity” as chosen by the previous month’s winner, Anatoli of Talk-a-Vino. I had the good fortune to secure (read: buy) enough votes to win this prestigious challenge. Hey, no chortling, I really did. It meant that I used the prize money to splurge on a new font, a bottle of 2010 DRC Richebourg, and a pair of wild dress socks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I have to choose this month’s theme.

The theme for #MWWC14 is …………drum roll (well, you probably read it in the title)………Tradizione, Tradition, 傳統 ,ਪਰੰਪਰਾ ,Tradició

From Mr. Mirriam-Webster: tradition (noun)

  • a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people of a particular group, family, society, etc. for a long time
  • the stories, beliefs, etc., that have been part of the culture of a group of people for a long time.

Have at it. The Drunken Cyclist and I will figure out the schedule and let you know via the MWWC blog. Until then enjoy your holiday………..umm…….. traditions! Beware, there will be nagging and harassing involved for the heel draggers and blocked writers out there. About the prize money? There really isn’t any. And the DRC purchase that I mentioned above? That was a lie. Although I’d like to make buying DRC a tradition.

%d bloggers like this: