The last dozen or so Fridays have been filled up with recounting my recent visit to Lodi, so I have not had a decent rant in a while. Well, that all changed as I was attempting to create a semblance of order in my cellar the other day and I came across this:
If you can’t tell from the picture, that is a signed bottle of wine. Or more precisely, an empty wine bottle signed by the winemaker (in this case, Hank Skewis, who in addition to being a prominent producer of Pinot, is also an extremely nice guy).
I never recycled the bottle since, well, it was signed—I figure you are supposed to hold onto crap like that, so I have. That got me thinking: signed wine bottles are just plain stupid.
Don’t get me wrong, I get that it is supposed to be a nice gesture and I appreciate the extra effort that goes into signing a bottle, but I can’t think of another product that is intended to be consumed that people sign. Can you? Have you ever seen a signed loaf of bread, carton of eggs, or a can of Chef Boyardee Beefaroni?
Even in areas where the makers of the product are well-known, would you ever wear a necktie signed by Armani or a dress signed by Christian Dior?
It just does not make sense.
I can only speak for me, but I tend not to drink signed bottles—I guess I figure that they are meant to be cherished or that someone will come along and offer me a boatload of cash for it. So by signing the bottle, you are actually encouraging me to not drink the wine and how dumb is that? Don’t you want me to drink it so that I will buy more? Or even dumber–I think that after I drink the wine I need to hold on to the damned bottle. Why? I have no idea. I prefer to not think of myself as an idiot, but that is pretty idiotic.
I only have one autograph that I know of: Fresh out of college, when I thought I wanted to go into politics, I was walking around the senate office buildings dropping off résumés and I ran into Mohammed Ali. I said something inane like “How’s it going Champ?” as we were about to cross paths. He held up his hand and motioned me to stop. So I did (I tend to do exactly what former heavyweight champions of the world tell me to do). He then spent the next five minutes or so performing magic tricks for me.
And he was pretty good.
At the end of the impromptu magic show, he handed me a pamphlet with his autograph already signed on it.
And I said something inane like “Gee, thanks Champ!”
That is the only autograph I have and I am not even sure where it is. The only reason I know I have it is that it keeps on turning up in my crap every time I move.
I guess the thrill about autographs is that you have something that the signer had touched. Or, at least in the last couple of decades, you have something that someone is willing to pay you for so that they can have something that the signer touched. When you think about it for a while, it is more than a little disgusting even if you are not a germaphobe. I once shook the hand of the President of France and I did not wash my hands for a week.
Talk about disgusting.
A good friend of mine is a retired professional bike racer and is one of the more famous U.S. cyclists (he finished third in the Tour de France one year). I went with him once to a local bike swap where he was selling a bunch of his old gear. He spent more time signing autographs than actually handling transactions (I found out rather quickly why he wanted me there), and he never seemed to be bothered much by it (I, on the other hand, would have been irked beyond belief–so resist the urge to ask me for my autograph).
Sure, he is well known, particularly in cycling circles, but he is just a regular guy who has many of the same issues that we all do: dealing with his family, his job, and well, life.
In the end, I always come back to this: Aren’t autographs in general and signed wine bottles in particular creating a cult of personality around an otherwise fairly “normal” person? In my humble opinion as an armchair philosopher, I think this all traces back to Watergate and the realization that our leaders are flawed—that they are not the demigods that society had long assumed they were. So instead, we create “heroes” in other aspects of life: sport, cinema, music, and more recently culinary arts, and yes, wine. Perhaps emulation or idolization is a basic human need.
Otherwise, why do signed wine bottles exist? I understand that singing a wine bottle is an indication that the winemaker handled your bottle personally, and is intended as a nice gesture, a “special” touch.
For me? If you want to do something special, how about giving me 20% off the wine I am buying from you? That will encourage me to drink the wine and come back and buy more….