At the End of the Day

A regular dose of marketing bollocks on French wine bottles these days is that such and such a plonk is l’expression du terroir’, but it was a tad disturbing last night to see an Italian primitivo recommended to me on a restaurant wine list as ‘the perfect expression of terror’. Il Brigadio Rosso, perhaps. Actually, it was quite good.

In fact, I can make a strong case for looking at the eurozone’s problems in the context of its member States’ wine output. Or put another way, any criterion would be better than the ones we’re employing now.

Take Greece. The Germans would like to take Greece and put it somewhere in the Congolese swamplands. This is because Berlin finds it hard to deal with anything and anyone unwilling to become German; and also, Greece isn’t responding to Troikanaut financial austerity pills. But a proper survey of Hellenic wine output could’ve predicted the tragic spread in EU bonds-appeal.

Did you ever try Retsina? I’ve never been a huge fan of pine-flavoured paraffin, but it’s amazing how – after only three bottles of the stuff – it seems like a clever idea to try a fourth. There is a very clear allegory here for any student of the entirely dysfunctional relationship between Athens and its international lenders since 2009.

Spain, on the other hand, makes several very palateable wines capable of competing on the international scene with rubbish French clarets sold at top dollar in M&S, and sickly German reds available from Lidl.

It is therefore too big to mess with: hence the completely different bailout deal made available to Spain by the bullies of Berlin-am-Brussels (vis a vis the one on offer to Greek Retsina-runners).

What this tells us about Ireland’s chances is hard to judge, but given Portugal churns out enough Mateus Rose to disguise the complete and pernicious incompetence of the European Commission, I’d venture to suggest that they’ll be OK.

Italy’s unique advantage here is that it has not only Gattinara, Prosecco, Frascati and Chianti as bargaining chips, it makes exciting cars and addictive pasta to ensure it will remain a serious global contender for many decades to come. What’s more, it has Goldman Sachs and the Cosa Nostra on its side.

My predictions about ezone survivors are based on myriad other considerations of course, but I do find the preceding factors telling. And what they’re telling me is that all of these ClubMed players should tell Angela Merkel where to stick her Fiskal Union, and use the consequent currency devaluations to put the French and Germans out of business when it comes to wine.

I have a gut sense that just the threat of this will be enough to bring Berlin  out of its catatonic indecisiveness: they, the Scandas, and the Dutch will declare wine an illegal product of the Devil. Together, they will found FEBRUARY – the Fiscal European Beer-Related Union of Accountant-Regulated Yawns. The rest of us will then, with luck, get our lives back.


15 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Back in the early Seventies, I was backpacking in Western Crete, along the beach West of Chania. An old boy hailed me and invited me into his home with the offer of a glass of wine. Now Greek home-made wine is a variable commodity but this was superb and I knew enough Greek to say so.
    “So you like my German wine?” the old boy asked.
    “Surely it is from the soil of Crete?” (I was eloquent after a few glasses)
    “There are six of them under my vines” he said.
    We were quite near Maleme where the parachute assault came in.
    So a possible way of improving Greek wine?
    Retsina was available but not very Cretan then.


  2. It’s abolutely not true that the Dutch will ever declare wine an illegal devil’s product. My doctor told me to drink at least two glasses red wine a day after my open heartoperation and these days there are wineyards in the Netherlands. Dutch entrepeneurs make wine even in France. No, we consider wine was given to us by God hemself. Besides: even the pope knows the devil does not exist any more.


  3. One of the most achingly embarrassing events in my entire life was attributable to retsina; at least, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Other things, including ouzo and possibly a jazz cigarette (only one mind), had also been trifled with; the horrifying details are still, 35ish years later, too painful to recall – never mind recount – in any precise detail. However, it came to pass that I found myself in the back of a two door Bavarian motorcar with fixed rear windows being driven by a French lunatic up a switchback hill on an island (can’t remember) at high speed. Certain foreknowledge, brought by a clear thirty seconds or so warning from what remained of my central nervous system, was sadly not sufficient for matters to be rearranged in any meaningful way and nature took its course. Poor bastard had to drive it all the way back to Paris – beyond question there is at least one person on this planet who has every right to hate my guts. To this day the mere thought of being within a country mile of that ‘bouquet’ is enough to start me gagging.


  4. I had a wise portugese friend who said that Europe divides culturally, first, into the wine drinkers and the beer drinkers. By this he meant wine is civilising, beer a kind of food, and any drink not derived from wine was poison and brain rot (vodka etc). Secondly, Europe divides culturally into where the Romans had been and where they never penetrated – you’ll notice that this covers almost the same area as his first point. Third, it divides into sea people vs continental people.

    Sea people are exposed to sea winds and different cultures, either as sailors or at home. They are quick, clear sighted, cynical, humorous. Continental people are slower off the mark, tend to solemnity and literalness, are more deeply emotional under the surface and have strange dreams with no sea winds to blow them away.

    Totally non-pc of course but when applied says it all –

    Ireland = beer-drinking, romanised, sea people
    Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece = wine drinking, roman, sea people
    UK = beer drinking, historically wine importing, roman, sea people
    Scandos = beer + vodka drinking, non roman, sea people
    Germans = beer + schnapps drinking, non Roman, continentals
    Netherlands = beer-drinking, non-roman, sea people
    Austria = wine + beer drinking, roman, continentals
    etc etc etc


  5. How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?
    Charles De Gaulle

    “Yes Charles It is possible, but not without the principles of Adam Smit”


  6. There is no historical indication that the Romans ever penetrated Ireland, some vague findings in the Dublin area are all that has been found.
    Ireland was an outpost of Western civilisation and as such avoided the Black Plaque which ravished Europe and UK in the Middle Ages.
    The Vikings were expelled in 1014 and the Normans who came in 1120, were largely assimilated.


  7. I do not think that you are considering the implications of future plans for European Integration in your post, John. As you observe, running different wines of different colours, strengths and qualities across Europe causes all sorts of problems. So, by 2015, I am sure that the Sprouts will be planning to have “Eurowine” in place….instead of all this nationalist pride and competition milarky, there will be complete integration.

    “Eurowine” will require every country in Europe to deliver its entire wine output centrally to a large wine lake in Germany. This will be run by The ECB……’the European Central Bottling co.’ in a ‘Euro-bonded’ warehouse. All Wine Producing Countries will first amalgamate their own output together so that they remain fiscally responsible for the amount that they are able to produce…and therefore the amount of ‘Bale Out’ from the ‘ECB’ that they can claim in return for their plonk.

    Any country producing wine that is stronger than the Eurostandard of 11.5% will have to be watered down, while any weaker wines will be topped up with Irish Puchine. All “Eurowine” will therefore be Rose by the time that it is all mixed together. It will, of course, carry the same rate of tax throughout Europe, collected centrally by The ECB……( the French will riot in the streets at the price hike while English Booze Cruise Ferries will go out of business )..but the French always were ‘revolting’ anyway !! The Greeks will continue to drink cold Retsina out of ‘beer bottles’ on their beaches and ignore EZ directives……with the full knowledge of the ECB who will turn a blind eye to it……… However this will be done to avoid further “Eurowine” Contamination…(…..known as ‘Contagion’ in the industry)

    The Sprouts will also make arrangements…..(to be called ‘Cream Off)’, to divert certain top Euro vinyards “Chateau Production” from the ECB wine lake….. provided that this is shipped directly to Brussels where it can be rendered for ‘Internal Use Only’ by Euro Commissioners, and to bribe passing Eurocrats, Greek Politicians and Troika Technocrats


  8. So, the real divide is NOT North and South….
    But Beer Drinkers and Wine Drinkers… (!!!)
    I guess this puts France firmly on the “South” block.

    Here in Greece, traditionally people are indeed wine drinkers.
    In every village you will find unlabeled (and untaxed) home-grown home-brewed wine. Retsina is not popular even in Greece, it is a cheap house wine to drink instead of water with lunch…


  9. In the days when DEC existed the European Operation used to divide up the territory as you’ve described. The argument was that it reduced cultural clashes.


  10. Not sure this is relevant, but Portugal is not all Mateus Rose. Go to one of the v.large supermarkets on the edge of Lisbon (and I suppose in other major centres) and you’ll find row upon row of very good stuff indeed; Douro, Alantejo and other regions whose names I can’t now bring to mind. All very worthwhile drinking. I was surprised by the extent and the quality.

    I wholly agree with you, though, on your main, oft repeated point; they would be far better off outside the EU.


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