Friday, July 18, 2003

A dirty little secret in the wine industry

I still have not heard back from my dream job after my last interview. I have been thinking lately about past jobs in terms of trying to tease out transferable skills that I can use in applying for new positions.

In one of my past careers I worked in the bulk wine industry. This is a side of the wine industry that the marketers never want you to know about. Some of the romance of drinking wine may be lost if the consumer found out that it was transported in large 14,000 liter containers not in oak casks.

In this industry there are many dirty little secrets. My favorite was when I found about how bad French wine can be ‘fixed’ through the judicious manipulation of paperwork.

Here is a little story to explain how this magic can occur ...

Suppose a French wine producer and has a bad year. The wine produced is suitable only for conversion to vinegar or industrial alcohol.

That same year, a Spanish producer creates a great wine. Alas, the value of even a good Spanish wine in the marketplace is nearly always less than that of a mediocre French wine.

A bright and unscrupulous wine broker now has an opportunity. Purchase the bad French wine and good Spanish wine for a song – shipping them both to Malta. That is where the real magic takes place.

Both shipping containers of wine arrive in the same port and there is a paperwork ‘mix-up’ and Presto – Chango. Now we have a container of a great “French” wine and a container of inferior Spanish wine.

According to the French – all is now right in the world. After all, great wine only comes from France!

I learned a great deal at that job. Not the least of which was that the French wine industry is filled with men who refused to deal with an American woman (even though I was trying to make them money). After that I personally refused to drink French wine even before their recent idiocy in terms of Iraq.

Not drinking French wine has not been a loss – Australian wine more than makes up for it. In particular, the best bottle of wine I ever had was an Australian Penfolds Shiraz. As an added bonus – the Australians in the wine industry that I dealt with were unfailingly pleasant and great people.

If you haven’t tried an Australian wine yet – give one a try, they are almost always wonderful!


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