Industry wine tastings; the ones where sellers and buyers meet on hallowed cement floor ballrooms partitioned between palettes stacked high with cardboard encased receivables and shippables, where table to table waltzes take place… waltzes of sophistication and purpose by those and for those with educated and experienced palates and the authoritative ability to sign a check.
The entire mercantile psychology of gambit and counter offer, what one might spectrally expect in any realm of exchange and more, occurs here within this environment… the sheer essence of the piss and sniff, swirl and spit resides here. This is civilization as we know it at work.
Etiquette is the rule of the day, for ethics are for idealists and morals are for fools when it comes to the quest for what fermented manipulations deserve to be stacked around ceiling posts in the middle of an island between the bread and deli sections, or delicately coddled in mahogany and cherry rack systems far beneath in-climate venues of gastronomical delight. Courtesies extended ad nauseum with nods and handshakes until condensed sugars break down and transform into uninhibited pokes and jabs of remembrances both delightful and embarrassing… usually concerning a previous such event and its aftermath. Old friends are reunited. New acquaintances are embraced.
And then inevitably, something strange happens and always centric to the tasting tables because that is where the initiating offer is made and the handed-off acceptance is acknowledged. Here is where alpha and beta hierarchies collide. Seller and buyer whiplashing over nuance and intricacy morph from the most innocent differences of opinion into personal affronts to one and all’s being. Statures bend and sway, pushing and pulling as former business alignments are loathed and future ones are dreaded. Encroachments across tribal lines become blatant attempts to improve another’s position in the wine acknowledged pecking order of one-upmanship. “You have just got to taste this Cheverny Rouge before that cretin you came in with does!”
And yet, these are actually normalities. They are to be found in similar configuration at tattoo conventions and auto swaps. This is human nature. But specific to this industry, a worse thing occurs that is beyond reproach and worthy of extreme prejudicial intolerances. This is about tasting table hogs who plant themselves, elbows flared, anchored in front of the 20 bottles they fully expect to sample, beginning to end, regardless of the 80 other tasters trying to maneuver around them, daring anyone to attempt a disapproving stare, grunt, or end-around. This is where civil society fails at its most extreme.
There are no identifying characteristics that these people possess. They are the most normal seeming of waiters and buyers and managers, sommeliers: appointed, anointed, or self-proclaimed. They are geeks and ruffians, employees, employers, owners of their own domain. They are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. And they are unable to comprehend that the 1-once pour of Bandol, the one that’s more than 50% Mourvedre or the Cornas that wholesales for $77, dripping with the ludicrousness of that pricing, can all be sampled, dissected, spit or swallowed via a step back from the table. They are relentless in their power grab to dominate the Savennieres Cuvee, the Reuilly La Grande Piece Rose or the Leredde Sancerre Red until they are bloody well ready not to.
Alas, the trials and tribulations one must negotiate to be a wine industry professional. And yet, when all the ruffled feathers and unabated friable asbestos settles. When all 75 wines are given their respective due and all the due-diligence can be logged, cataloged, and ranked notably in the proper queue, taking solace in knowing your efforts are solely for the benefit of all…