Plonk for the Privileged: Fuzion Malbec
In these challenging economic times, Tina and I were forced to ultimately admit that we had to cut back on the little luxuries. Despite the exhortations of politicians, who would have us spend freely to ensure the survival of banks, credit card companies, retailers and anyone else who relies entirely on us issuing forth more money than we actually take in — and then generously charging us only a single dollar in interest for every three we borrow — we have decided that trimming is rather important.
Oh, but where to cut back? The country estate?
That hardly seems reasonable. Where would the peasants sleep? What are we expected to do, fill the moat with mere water rather than de-bubbled champagne? Repair the bricks with actual stone rather than re-roughened diamonds? I know that we’re in hard times, but isn’t that just a little bit extreme? After all, home is where the heart is… for two months a year, when we aren’t traveling the world.
Unless… perhaps we might consider downsizing our transportation.
But no, that seems just a little bit ridiculous. I mean, would you look at Tina’s entourage? Where would those hundreds of people linger while they waited for even the slightest glimpse of her radiant talent, charm and beauty? I think it might be just a little bit cruel to ask them to hang onto the landing gear, huddling miserably in the sub-zero cold for dozens of hours as we criss-crossed the globe, don’t you? Besides, the court order clearly states we can’t do that any more. Evidently it’s some kind of “human rights” issue.
I know! I know, things can get so absurd when INTERPOL gets involved, I swear… but with transport out of the picture, there has to be another alternative!
Fortunately, just in the nick of time, we were able to find one.
Fuzion has been something of a phenomenon in our neck of the woods, an almost purely word-of-mouth product that started as support of a simple Argentinean Malbec, and turned it into a media darling. At least, where “media darling” equates into “total confusion by wine critics to comprehend a trend they didn’t start.” It’s a fascinating story, supported by some pretty basic facts:
- The Malbec is a competent red wine, with a medium body and an uncomplicated, pleasant flavor;
- Plus, it’s $7.45 per bottle.
Therefore, it is a sensation. As one of the numerous articles covering its story notes, the initial buy of the wine numbered 5,000 cases; at present, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario runs through 30,000 cases per month of the stuff. And more importantly, the sales of the wine are generally outside of Toronto, which would happily claim the status of the universe’s center on almost anything to do with Canada, good or bad.
In other words, everyone is in the market for an inexpensive, reasonably good wine. And go figure! It’s flying off the shelves.
Tina and I first heard about Fuzion from a friend of hers, who had brought a couple of bottles to a party we attended… possibly with the specific intent of pulling us into this underground movement to promote the wine. She told us all about how she’d seen a reasonably positive review in the newspaper, and that it wasn’t long before she was attempting to buy it by the case — not just because she liked it, but because it was disappearing from nearby stores so quickly that it was the only way to be sure to get any at all.
When we tried it, we could see what the fuss was about: Because Fuzion’s Malbec perfectly straddled the line between flavor and value, as though configured specifically to walk the tightrope of impulse buying decisions. On the one hand, it isn’t the greatest red wine you will ever sample in your life; on the other, it’s well beyond than anything else in its price range, and a sight better than many wines that cost twice as much. If confronted with the fact that a single bottle costs only slightly more than a pint of premium beer down at the pub, it’s almost impossible for a consumer not to see an inherent value in the product.
Which is why, when the latest shipment arrived at our local liquor stores, I was entirely unsurprised to see entire cases merchandised at the checkouts as impulse items. More importantly, it seemed downright reasonable for people to grab whole cases and bring them home — an entire box of this wine costs less than four bottles of something more premium, and is of no less quality. For example, here’s an entirely accurate transcript of the conversation that happened in line right in front of me, just the other day:
Slightly scary large bald man with a shopping cart full of booze: Hey, sorry, excuse me, but what do you think of this wine right here? This stuff? There’s a big pile of it.
Cashier: The Fuzion? Oh, I like it. That’s the red, isn’t it? It’s good. We just got the rosé in as well, but I haven’t tried that.
The wife of the slightly scary large bald man: I’ve never heard of it before!
Cashier: Really? Go figure, we can’t keep it in the store. It takes about three days before we’re sold out again, so we’ve just started stacking the crates up here by the cash. They move quickly enough after that!
Slightly scary large bald man with a shopping cart full of booze: Oh yeah? Okay. Ring two cases through for me, okay?
The wife of the slightly scary large bald man: Really?
Slightly scary large bald man with a shopping cart full of booze: Jesus Christ, at this price we couldn’t get two bottles of your god damned hooch, let alone a case of anything. Ring ’em through!
Cashier: You bet! Thank you, sir!
It’s a scenario you can believe is happening anywhere this wine is sold, and I have to wonder whether any of it was ever planned. Did this South American winery think that they could do better by undercutting the local varieties? Did they believe so strongly in their vintage that they knew drinkers would respond to it? Or were they just happy to have a market and customers who were willing to pay any price for what they produced?
Whatever the case, Fuzion has found that magical boundary between the affordable and the highly enjoyable. This isn’t by any means a wine that you would want to put in your cellar for years, assuming you’re even the type to do so — we certainly aren’t, and cellaring anything for longer than a week gives us both a headache and a Viking desire to raid our own basement. Rather, it’s the kind of modest and capable red that you’d be happy to pull out for a dinner or BBQ… or best of all, at a good summer backyard party, where you can confer its marvelous secrets to your friends, as we had bestowed unto us.
After all, the only thing sweeter than a great bargain on a great wine is to share the secret. Somehow it makes the whole thing more delicious.