Friday, January 18, 2008


'Plonk' isn't in my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary - so onward to Google.

One site defines plonk as 'British term for simple, ordinary wine. Often used to describe very inexpensive wine with no character'. Another site gives a history of the word and defines it as 'a disparaging term for cheap wine, especially cheap red wine... '. An article in Canadian Living has an abbreviated definition, 'wine snob talk for crap'. Then plonk is translated into sixteen languages on the Answers website defining it as simply meaning 'cheap or inferior wine'. ... and there are enumerable sites offering definitions similar in character.

What prompted a visit to 'plonk' was Beppi Crosariol's column 'LCBO flips anti-plonk policy'. The term wasn't used anywhere else in the article nor was the notion that the LCBO not only condones plonk but actively markets it. The inference is made to '$7 and $8' wines. Why use the term in the heading?

I've used plonk many times in articles in this blog to mean a wine is so ordinary, boring or flawed that the LCBO should have weeded it from their shelves. There should be procedures, safe guards, or whatever to prevent plonk from being offered for sale. I never thought of 'plonk' as cheap although a large number, some say 50%, of cheap wines are plonk. To believe that plonk doesn't exist between $10 to $20 is just plain naive but it should be rare to find plonk in a price range above $20 although wine ratings, by definition, exclude price so it's possible. If higher priced plonk is found it is often excused as 'corked', 'cellared beyond peak' or my favourite 'the wine is sleeping'. Heavens we wouldn't want to infer that 'Chateau this or that' would release plonk to the public. And 'plonk' isn't interchangeable with 'not a value'. A wine not worth the price paid could be, but not necessarily, 'plonk'.

To paraphrase a famous Canadian 'When is plonk plonk? Plonk is plonk when it is plonk. And when it's proven to be plonk, it is plonk.' And when is plonk acceptable? NEVER! Plonk is the stuff that a winery makes in a bad year or a fermentation product by a novitiate winemaker, the stuff that lies fallow in inventory waiting for 'ageing to give it more character'.... or for someone unwittingly to buy it.

Robin Garr in his Wine Lovers blog leads with a Title for this subject:

Good cheap wine or "plonk"?

... and his rhetorical question is, "But is all cheap wine 'plonk'?" with his answer, "I don't think so, or there'd be no purpose in what for many of us is an ongoing quest, the search for decent, interesting wine that's affordable for everyday enjoyment." adding, "Plonk, after all, doesn't mean merely 'cheap', but 'boring'." Rating-wise that's somewhere below an 82/100.

So I interpret Beppi's heading to be mainly media hype... attracting attention in a dramatic often negative way... slurring the LCBO for adopting a policy of marketing wine commonly defined as plonk. I believe it would be more appropriate to criticize them for not policing their shelves to avoid plonk, however, demonstrating whether this in fact is true may be too arduous a task. One would have to taste the 'cheap' wines looking for a bottle of plonk that squeaked by the LCBO laboratories. Who wants to do tastings of cheap wines? And 'squeaked by' may be too generous a term since the LCBO Laboratory is not a 'taste' test as much as a Food and Drug qualification to avoid noxious or injurious products. I have not seen any LCBO literature describing the members of their 'Grading Panel' and how it selects the hundreds of SKUs brought in yearly or monthly to Ontario... have you? And as for 'tasting', I have not heard of Master Oneologists, on contract to the LCBO or to Ontario wine agents or their staff, going winery to winery, country to country sniffing and swirling out wine options.... have you?

My concluson is that you and I are the final adjudicators... if we buy it the LCBO keeps bringing it to us. If we buy plonk that's what we get to choose from. And don't expect even your favourite wine critic to help you narrow down the plonk. They're busy marketing the obvious.

My opinion, Wino Will

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