The events of the last week have gotten my brain churning on some things. For those who haven't read my last couple of posts, a local winery was purchased at auction by Laurent Gruet, of the sparkling wine powerhouse from New Mexico, Gruet Winery. Although I think the overall reaction around the state has been pretty positive, there are always complainers in a situation like this. Among the complaints, a major one has been about a big European concern (Gruet is originally from Champagne France) stepping into the Texas wine pool.
For those of you who have never lived among Texans, there is a larger than normal aversion to all things France here. You can't imagine the volume of "Freedom Fries" that were sold here in Texas when the French wouldn't join the US position on the Iraq invasion. This got me thinking about the reasons why Texans have such animosity towards the French. I think I've finally come up with the answer; the French are just like Texans.
Everything is bigger in Texas
During the interviews with Laurent Gruet following his purchase of Cap*Rock winery, he was asked what the highest he would have bid was. His response was, “I had no limit, it was up to the other
bidder.” Tack a "yee haw!" onto the end of that, and it could easily be mistaken for the brash words of Texas oil millionaire. I also overheard one of the French contingent comment on replacing the statue of the Native American that adorns the winery with a statue of Gruet himself. I've only ever seen audacity like this in a fellow Texan before. The French, like Texans, are known to be brash and arrogant. Sure, they have that charm-your-pants-off accent, but beneath it lies the self-assurance that they are better than everyone else. Texans also have an accent, slightly less charming perhaps, but the same self-assurance runs through their bones.
Then there is the matter of state pride. The inhabitants of most states probably consider themselves Americans first and then pledge their allegiance to their states as a secondary consideration. For a large number of Texans, the exact opposite is true. That's why you will periodically hear people from Texas, occasionally even the governor, start talking about Texas seceding. Of course, everyone knows about the endearing tendency that Texans have to talk ad nauseum about how big everything is here. Naturally, it is implied that bigger is better, a belief that even manifests itself in the hairstyles of Texas women. The French don't have the same preoccupation with size, but they do frequently express their belief that anything you can do, France can do better. Those of us in the wine world are more than aware that this is the case.
Say it ain't so
I realize that what I am saying here is probably equally horrifying to both Texans and French. The truth is that both feel that they are from the best place on earth, and that the rest of the world is just nursing a secret jealousy against them, and neither of them really cares. The two cultures clash so much because the attitudes are so similar. It's like putting two alpha males in a room together and letting them have at it.
Gruet a true Texan?
So what does this mean within the context of the Gruet purchase of Cap*Rock? I think it means that Gruet is going to fit in perfectly here. The fact that Laurent Gruet believes that he can make great sparkling wine in Texas, regardless of what anyone else might say, makes him exactly the kind of maverick (had to work that in here somewhere) who WILL make great sparkling wine in Texas. He, like a true Texan, doesn't really care what you or anyone else believes, only what he can make happen. Though this stance might be somewhat off-putting to some, it is exactly the kind of brash attitude that has served Texans well for so long. The only question is whether Gruet will start marketing an oversized bottle of bubbly, since everything is bigger in Texas.
Texas is Bigger… photo courtesy of waynevermillion.com