I'm almost always thinking about booze. Usually, it's in a philosophical sense - not about some deal I need to make, but rather about the role of alcohol in our lives and whether it actually makes them better. Lately, I've been so bombarded by new arrivals and tasting notes that I've had little time to ponder much more than the cost of a bottle. Some of you may appreciate that more, sick of reading my babbles about booze theory, but I hope there is an audience out there somewhere. What struck me the other night, while watching an episode of the Colbert Report, was an interview that Stephen conducted with a prominent war journalist. Colbert asked him for his stance (either pro or anti) on some of the confrontations he had involved himself in and the reporter responded with one of the best answers I've ever heard: it's too complicated.
Perhaps when you're young, bold, and opinionated, it can be easy to be either "for" or "against" the Iraq war, or to firmly side with Israel or Palestine. What I found so relieving about the journalist's answer, however, was the fact that true experience taught him never to jump to conclusions. While I've never been part of an armed engagement, I can only imagine the myriad of components to consider when trying to establish the truth of what's happening. Yet, sitting here from far away, it seems like so many people believe they understand the intricate nature of each conflict. This man, who had been there and experienced the war, could only say that there was simply too much to consider when trying to summarize a final opinion. So what does this have to do with booze?
I think that perhaps I've let my own opinions about large corporations complicate my opinion about some of the products they own or produce. Sometimes it's easy to lump an entire portfolio under the Diageo umbrella, or to dismiss big house Cognac as simply adulterated. I've listened to other opinions about these matters and I've heard some interesting points of view. However, the more that I work in this business, the more I am introduced to the people behind these products, many of whom completely throw a wrench in my firm-standing beliefs. For example, last week, when Mr. Raguenaud from Grand Marnier paid us a visit - we were all less than enthused about this corporate giant and their "mass-produced" orange liqueur. However, when we tasted with Patrick and we sensed his passion for the craft, we all left feeling a bit ashamed of ourselves. Sure, Grand Marnier is run by luxury brand-owner LVMH and they run huge ad campaigns all over the world, but does that mean their product isn't any good?
Now that's not to say that you should support Grand Marnier instead of a locally-made or smaller-production orange liqueur. It's just to say that things are complicated. It's not easy to simply lump brands or products together based on an overall ideal. I've had a few more of these experiences since Grand Marnier visited, including a run in with a tequila producer I was sure I wanted to avoid, but ended up being completely won over by his passion. If you would have asked me six months ago how I felt about corporate-run, big-brand spirits, I probably would have given you a blanket answer. Now, however, I need to analyze that question on a case by case basis. There are too many facets of the booze business that cannot be summarized so easily.