Growing public backlash against substandard wine has prompted the California Legislature to propose action to rectify the situation.
One of the bills currently on the table would require all wines produced in the state to pass a “minimum qualifications taste test” before they could be put on shelves for sale.
“Why shouldn’t every wine that gets sold in California possess minimum standards of taste?” asked Congressman Daniel Urlunk (D-Death Valley). “What’s the purpose of fermenting grapes if you’re going to turn out an inferior product? This is no different than the tests we've implemented for graduating high school, or the licensing exams for professional positions such as the Bar Exam, CPA exam, exams for dentists, doctors, barbers, etc."
When asked exactly what the standard would be for obtaining a passing grade, Urlunk responded, “Simple. Wines that would be the equivalent of a 70-79 rating from Robert Parker would pass, while anything below a 70 gets rejected.” Robert Parker is a noted wine critic and publisher of the Wine Advocate, a popular wine newsletter that commands a lot of respect within the industry.
When questioned further on how Mr. Parker could possibly taste all the wines to determine which ones made the grade, Urlunk told reporters, “What are you, idiots? Of course he can’t taste all the wines. That’s why my bill also proposes the establishment of a state agency with trained panelists to evaluate the wines.”
Strong opposition to the bill has already arisen from some large producers in the wine industry, who say it discriminates against jug and box wines. Pete Noah, spokesmen for FrenchSwede Colony Wines, had this to say: “Sales of jug and box wines account for a significant portion of total wine sales in the state. Why should we leave their fate to an arbitrary tasting panel? Let the consumer be the judge. If they don’t like a wine then they won’t buy it, plain and simple. On the other hand, to reject wines for sale would be disastrous for the winery and in turn, for the state’s economy.”
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” retorted Urlunk when told of Noah’s remarks. “Plain and simple, the reason these big jug-producing wineries don’t like my bill is because frankly, their wines won’t pass the basic test to qualify for sale. And the reason they won’t pass is because their wines contain grapes of questionable pedigree - in other words, undocumented grapes. Who knows what is sitting in that bottle labeled ‘chablis’ or ‘burgundy?’ A lot of those grapes are here illegally, and that’s why they won’t pass muster.”
Urlunks remarks really steamed Noah. “That smacks of discrimination,” he snorted. “Undocumented grapes are the backbone of the California wine industry. Yes, they cost less but without them, wine prices would be much higher overall, and ultimately that would hurt the consumer. Not everyone can afford to pay for a bottle of expensive cabernet or chardonnay. The undocumented grapes fill a real niche in our economy.”
The congressman had a scatching retort to the wine spokesperson. “Undocumented grapes use up our precious water – and as you know, we’re in the middle of severe drought – plus they waste our fertilizer as well as take more than their fair share of California sunshine. Not only that but these illegal – excuse me, ‘undocumented’ grapes occupy aceage that could be used by legitimate grape varieties such as cabernet, pinot noir, chardonnay and yes, even merlot.”
Reporters asked Urlunk how he planned on dealing with the undocumented grape problem,
considering it seems to be so prevalent in California. “First thing we have to do is tighten up our borders to prevent more of these renegades from being planted. Then we focus on stopping them from using up resources that could instead be used on legitimate grape varietals. We have to really come down hard on the wineries that employ these grapes.” The congressman was adamant. “The wine industry is facing a crisis and it is polarizing everyone. We have got to nip this in the bud, so to speak.”
Rumor has it that a volunteer vigilante group has also formed to watch for instances of undocumented grapes being planted in the wine country. Consisting solely of women, they are calling themselves the “Minute Maids.”