“You can take my identity, my pension, my Black Amex card, my blue suede shoes, but keep those mitts off of my pinot noir.”
Earlier this year, a scandal was uncovered by Chinese officials wherein wines, both imported and domestic, were found to have been chemically altered and bottled as a premium product—many using real labels. Some of these wines turned out to be only 20% fermented grape juice with the bulk being made of sugar, carcinogenic chemicals and food coloring; a handful from the central province of Hebei—an area dubbed ‘China’s Bordeaux’—contained no wine at all.
You may ask yourself: Since it’s a proven fact that Chinese people are smarter than us in every single aspect of life except for Cash Cab and interactive sports trivia games, why would they plunk down top yuan for counterfeit wine? And not be able to tell the difference?
It may have something to do with a specific genetic irregularity within the Chinese palate that allows them to prepare, eat and enjoy such culinary aberrations as duck’s feet marinated in blood, cow’s lung, goose stomachs, fish lips with celery, goat’s tendons in wheat noodles, monkey’s head, turtle casserole, pigeon brain and pickled deer penis.
Speaking of the latter, in these inflated times, I wonder how much it costs for a peck of pickled peckers?
Tiny Bubbles Tag The Wine
So, ever paranoid cautious, Dan Tudor—winemaker at the highly-rated Tudor winery, a Central Coast-based house specializing in 90 point-plus pinot noir drawn from top vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands and Anderson Valley—has opted to join his petrified concerned brethren at Chateau Montelena, Clos de la Roche, Canon la Gaffeliere and Louis Latour and employ a newfangled device called the Bubble Tag™. Essentially, it’s an adhesive security label that contains random and unique patterns of bubbles impossible to duplicate, even by Prooftag, the company that produces them.
Each tag is associated with a bar code and recorded in a database, which the customer can cross-reference on line, supposedly ensuring the absolute authenticity of the wine within the bottle. I have no idea how much this costs, nor any real idea how it works despite reading four articles on the subject, but I do know that 1) No bogus Tudor wine has ever been found and 2) the Bubble Tag™ is a French invention.
Nothing against the French, of course, despite their own gustatory grotesqueries (calf pancreas, blood pudding and garden slugs in garlic butter), but I tend to be wary of French invention based on their track record.
- Nicolas-Jacques Conté invented pencils in 1795, but the pencil sharpener was not invented until 1828 nor the eraser until 1839.
- Louis Paul Cailletet invented something called a ‘manometer’ which could have no conceivable value to anyone but Ricky Martin.
- Rudolf Diesel invented a stinky engine that runs on stinky fuel which now costs more than stink-free regular.
- Gustave Eiffel invented the Eiffel Tower, which looks like an erect pickled deer penis.
Fittingly, the first of Dan Tudor’s tamper-proofed pinot noirs will be sent to China. This is not in retaliation for the cancer wine, nor the hundreds of thousands of made-in-China polystyrene Barney toys labeled ‘Lalique Crystal’ that wound up in Niemen Marcus showcase windows.
Rather, I believe it is because Tudor pinot noirs, which sell here for between $40 and $50 a bottle, may fetch upward of $500 each in Asia.
For that kind of money, Dan rightly believes that customers should be guaranteed carcinogen-free wine direct from the Central Coast, not some laboratory in Changli county—not even if the counterfeiters are conscientious enough to change the labels from ‘Tudor’ to ‘Tumor’.
Meanwhile, the wines themselves—while possibly not worth ten times over retail—are still magnificent examples of Central Coast pinot noir. They’re fabulously textured with superb fruit concentration, wisps of pepper and nicely integrated oak. The focus is solidly Burgundian, with an emphasis on earth notes behind the fruit—like the great wines of the Côte de Nuits, Tudor’s pinots are very terroir-driven. In fact, he returns to the word ‘terroir’ again and again on his web page as he describes his product.
I’d mention that he spells it wrong every time, too, but why burst his bubble?