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  An open letter from Mr. Terry Theise  
  To Whom It May Concern:

There are two kinds of values in wine; REAL values and BOGUS values.

Amount and type of work in the vineyard (pruning, binding, fertilizing, spraying, trimming, monitoring fruit-quality and cutting away where necessary, so-called "green-harvesting", all OTHER treatments which have an impact on yields, canopy trimming near harvest, picking, whether by hand or machine, whether in successive passes (what the French call "trie' or in block-pickings, and finally (and crucially) what proportion of this work can be done by machine.

Consider also the fixed costs of labels, bottles, capsules, corks, cases, and all other physical requirements.

To these we add the price the grower NEEDS to receive to cover his costs and provide for himself and his family.

This is REAL value. To wit, Mr. Bruno Schmitt of the estate Schmitt-Wagner in Longuich on the Mosel, who produces roughly 3,000 cases each year from his 8.14 acres of very steep vineyards, almost none of which can be worked by machine. He has over 6,000 vines planted in 1896, naturally on their own rootstocks.

The New York consumer can purchase these wines for prices ranging from $16 for his simplest "Kabinett" wine through $24 for his special-selection "Auslese" wine.

The consumer also obtains the intangible value of supporting artisanal wines made by families directly connected to their land. Such families know their vineyards intimately, and carefully guide each wine through its life from bud-break to bottle. In combination, these families comprise a true CULTURE. It is worth cherishing.

ALL other "values" are BOGUS values. They bear upon nothing but abstractions and manipulation of consumer psychology. They reduce wine to the level of commodity, and are traded accordingly. An egregious example is the setting of price to make a STATEMENT, a classic Orwelian "big lie", which one is seduced into believing because of the speaker's audacity in propounding it. " You don't know who I am but my wine is WORTH $150" is just such a big lie.

Is such a wine "worth" its price merely because an impressionable or na´ve consumer can be manipulated into paying it? Or is it some kind of FUN to blow big money on pretentiously priced wines from parvenues without, in many instances, a vine to their name or a track record of excellence?

Anyone is entitled to waste his money as he wishes. But that isn't so much a statement of value as a reminder of how often suckers are born.

Terry Theise