Listen up, wine lovers: Fermented grape juice and hulking SUVs have something in common besides ethyl alcohol as an ingredient. The federal Cash for Clunkers program has been extended to wine.
The Wine Skewer has learned that thanks to secret negotiations hammered out this weekend over copious quantities of nondescript Merlot at an undisclosed wine bar in San Francisco, aides to Governor Schwarzenegger and President Obama are expected to announce that relief is at hand for millions of American enthusiasts whose wine cellars once seemed cool and wonderful but are now hallmarks of inefficiency and/or bad taste.
According to a reliable inside source (the bartender), the plan—dubbed “Greeno for Vino” until someone comes up with something catchier—will cover the following categories.
Trophy Bottles. Sure they used to looked great on a table in a chic restaurant back when you still had an expense account, but today any extra-tall, extra-wide, extra-heavy bottle is looking and feeling like the wine-world equivalent of a Brontosaurus. With the carbon footprints moving into American consciences, it’s hard to justify keeping such once-prized trophy bottles around, let alone opening them. Greeno-for-Vino officials are requesting that all such bottles be carefully lifted (preferably using cranes and pullies to prevent hernias) and transported to a drop-off center, where the owners will be given triple the volume of varietal bag-in-box wine, representing just about the same weight as the deep-punted, rack-straining behemoths.
Ooooold Bordeaux. To most American citizens raised on soda and juice, aged Bordeaux has about as much fruit as Anthony Dias Blue has credibility. Who wants room-filling aromas of pencil lead, cigar box and forest floor nuances? (Smelling salts work much better.) And who needs flavors that border on socks soaked in vinegar, not to mention yucky sediment? Under the Greeno-for-Vino plan, only sub-First Growth Bordeaux would be eligible (reason being there are plenty of suckers still chasing Lafite, Mouton et al in the secondary market). Unlucky holders of unauctionable clarets more than 15 years old will be able to exchange them for an equivalent volume of young Meritage or the exact sum of $9.99 per bottle (which should enable them to purchase something drinkable from California).
Oaky Chards. They’re big, they’re buttery and they get high scores from critics whose tongues have callouses from years of swishing and spitting 25 wines a day. But they smell like the Home Depot lumber aisle and tend to stab the palate with the sharpness and acrid woodiness of boxful of toothpicks. Yes, Uncle Sam can read the writing on the tasting-room wall: oak is out, steely freshness is in. Chardophiles stuck with these butterscotched brutes will be able to turn them in for equal volumes of Chardonnays labeled “unoaked,” “naked,” et al; or for seven euros, which should by them a nice fresh Mâcon-Villages next time they are in France.
Wine Books. Okay, it’s true: Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine makes a dandy doorstop. But now that we live in the Age of Ratings, who really needs paper-based wine prose by the likes of 20th-century icons Johnson, Asher, Bespaloff and Lynch (let alone modern scribes like Colman, Oldman and Feiring). Indeed, ever since Frank Prial retired and stopped mentioning Alexis Lichine every other Wednesday, wine “authors” are rarely even heard in polite conversation anymore. All dusty old wine tomes will be accepted; those who turn them in will be handed a two-dollar bill and told instead to visit yawn.com—er, make that wine.com—where they can see only the highest ratings for any given wine on the market, from more sources than one can count on one hand, without potential distraction caused by words that put the wine in any context whatsoever.
Charity Auction Leftovers. It has long been suspected that a majority of large-format bottles sold for illogical sums of money at sundry charity events are actually recycled over and over and over again. Here is your chance to break the vicious cycle. Bring your tired magnums, your weary jeroboams, your who-knows-when-you-could-ever-uncork-’em methuselahs to a Greeno-for-Vino drop-off station and you will be sent home with a tax-deductible $99 voucher which can be used as U.S. currency in future charity auctions; or go home with a mixed case of screwtop, Tetra-Pak and plastic-bottled wine that you can open tonight without fear or remorse.
Wines Rated 83 Points or Less by Wine Enthusiast. In their tireless efforts to remain relevant in a wine-ratings scene dominated by “RP” and “WS,” editors at Wine Enthusiast magazine several years ago stopped printing reviews of wines scoring under 85 points (except, of course, if the producer/marketer bought a label-reproduction ad). They also never disclose any scores under 80, online or in print, ostensibly to spare wineries the ignominy. In fact, according to a simple bell-curve analysis conducted by the National Bureau of Lies & Statistics, in the 2009 calendar year to date, of 6,488 wines reviewed by the Enthusiastics, less than 10% fell into the 80-83 point range, while a full 8% earned precisely 84 points and only 58 (or less than 1%) received an 80-point score. The conclusion: wines meriting under 80 points from the magazine’s critics are statistically rarer than confirmed sightings of Bigfoot. In turn, this means that all wines rated under 84 points by this magazine should be considered borderline undrinkable—despite the mag’s buying guide key that translates 83 points to “good” and 80-82 points as “acceptable…in casual, less-critical circumstances.” Greeno-for-Vino officials are urging wine drinkers not to waste time pondering just what sort of “circumstances” these wines could suit. Instead, those who may have somehow encountered such low-rated wines are urged to place them in Ziploc bags and exchange them for $1.99 each, or for an equal number of bottles rated 70 points by Wine Spectator.
In related news, a spokesperson in Governor Schwarzeneggar’s office confirmed that while his negotiators were lobbying hard for Greeno-forVino legislation to include California red wines featuring 14+% alcohol, these high-octane Zins, Cabs, etc. were dropped from the program when someone suggested that the public would be better served by requiring said bottles to display stickers instructing drinkers to “add 1 oz. water for every 5 oz. wine before consuming.”