Sunday, May 21, 2006

what Al Gore doesn’t want you to know. . . about wine

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a pro-hydrocarbon front group funded by big oil, has produced two commercials to counteract what they term a “smear campaign” against carbon dioxide. The commercials, which were released in response to the new Al Gore vehicle, An Inconvenient Truth, pretty much scream “Saturday Night Live commercial parody” in an effort to defend the much-maligned gas—so, if nothing else, they should remind us that CO2 can be fun.

The problem with the ads, from a marketer’s standpoint, is that they only sell the benefits of current carbon dioxide levels. In order to overcome existing “barriers to use” (as we call it in the biz), the CEI needs to explain the benefits of rising levels of greenhouse gasses.

Which brings us to a little grape known as Cabernet Franc. In his ode to this underappreciated varietal, Mike Steinberger of Slate writes of the red wines of the Loire Valley, which depend heavily on Cab Franc. The reds of Loire are often dismissed as thin and weedy, which is, in large part, due to the cooler climate of the region. The problem is that the grapes do not get enough warm weather in which to ripen. . . or, at least, that used to be the problem.

. . . as it happens, the weather in the Loire seems to be getting more agreeable. Kermit Lynch, who has been importing Joguet into the United States for 30 years, recalls that during his first decade representing Joguet, there was one outstanding red-wine vintage, four reasonably good ones, and five difficult years (cool weather, lots of rain). But between 1995 and 2004, there wasn't a dog to be found; by Lynch's reckoning, the decade featured seven excellent red wine vintages and three good ones. He says better viticulture is one reason for the region's improved batting average, but a bigger factor is more consistently dry and warm weather, a development he puts down to global warming.

It’s a perfect case, really. The largest consumers of fossil fuels—the largest producers of greenhouse gasses—are relatively affluent people in relatively affluent countries. Who could possibly care more about improved Loire vintages? You couldn’t get better-targeted data if you asked the George Tenet to compile it himself.

Of course, an out-of-touch, super-rich, elitist guy like Al Gore who can pop open a $400 Cheval Blanc anytime he wants doesn’t understand the needs of your average, upwardly mobile, SUV driver. What does he care about a better $20 bottle of Chinon? Why, he’s probably worried about protecting the value of his own, no doubt first growth-heavy, cellar.

Who really has our best interests at heart? It’s up to the CEI to tell us.


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