Most people will have you believe that democracy is a much sought-after ideal. Even as Russia goes all out to prove that not even democracy succeeds, the idea of true democracy remains the ultimate dream of the human race. For once, I think, I side with the supposed villains here, for the notion that every vote counts and ‘no-one-is-greater-than-another’ isn’t the ‘best-of-all-worlds’ scenario. Recently, while scanning the menu of a restaurant, I realised that the only mutton to be found on the menu was in the form of frozen kebabs. Everything else was chicken by one name or another. The fact that the menu spanned cuisines from across three continents still didn’t seem to require the inclusion of mutton as a staple offering.
A friend in the business confided that by removing exotics like mutton and pork, an establishment can drop food costs by as much as 20%. So all these Gau Rakshak brigades didn’t really have to get their khaki shorts in a bunch about beef being served. Instead, they should have just let eateries list it and eventually go bankrupt! Chicken, clearly, pardon the pun, rules the roost in our restaurants.The same lethargy is now eating away at wines. We have gone from having decent wines to some just-about-average ones. The import price for a significant chunk of the business is under three euros, which is where most of the bottom-of-the-barrel stuff is to be found. To add to this, taxes inflate the prices by the time the wines reach us, a problem that food doesn’t have to face, but then food is more perishable than most wines.
The trouble is that with so many mediocre wines around (the only kind that is selling right now), people are either getting accustomed to drinking crap wine or else are completely swearing off wine and switching to beer instead, which is much more affordable and easy to down. All this is a lot because of a dirty form of democracy at play here, silent yet lethal. When the industry believes that all they must do is serve the need of the hour without putting any efforts at growing and improving the market, it’s a sign of things beginning to spiral downwards. Instead of importing better wines and raising the average quality of the wines on our shelves, we seem to be receding every year.
Today, with every passing year, taxes go up and the industry, in a bid to stay the same, starts importing cheaper wines. The result is mis-education. And the one thing that can utterly mar the concept of democracy is lack of awareness and access to information and knowledge. An uninformed or uneducated palate is not capable of taking decisions, the kind which the industry is relying on to run its business. In other words, if the people selling the stuff don’t start doing something about improving the quality of wines they are bringing in (they will need to drop prices, as also fire most of the purchase managers and financial controllers who see all wines as just another form of liquid SKU), it could very well mean that states needn’t fight for prohibition. With nothing good left to drink on our shelves, palates will go dry and the states shall sober up anyway. So the next time you are casting your vote on or ordering wines, do try to make a thoroughly informed choice.
The writer is a sommelier