When is a Table Not a Table?

When is a Table Not a Table?

Have you ever heard the old joke “When is a door not a door?” Well, I have a new one for you.

(It’s “When it’s ajar”. As in, it’s not a door, it’s a jar…?)

Ok, well, mine’s not so much a joke as a general sort of pondering, but what it lacks in humor, it makes up for in… well, nerdiness.

When is a table not a table? When it’s a wine. *Pause for tumbleweed*.

The 2023 California Grape Crush Report is in, and as always, it begins by detailing the tonnages for various grape categories, including “red”, “white”, and “table”. It seemed odd to me at first that “table” accounts for just 4.2% of the total tonnage. Now, I would believe that if this were the Oakville Grape Crush Report: who can afford to make table wine out of Oakville fruit? But this report is for the whole state, including the Central Valley and its 300,000 tons of French Colombard. That alone is worth 8% of this year’s harvest, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen that variety listed on a label.

Then, as I do every year about 30 seconds in to reading the report, I realized that this is not just a wine report… In this context, not only does “table” not mean “table”: it also doesn’t mean “table wine” but “table grapes”.

Once you realize it, it’s so obvious. But it makes you think: our perception of a word’s meaning is clouded by our own experience, maybe more than we realize. Even a word as seemingly straightforward as “table” can trick us into thinking that we’ve understood it, and if I weren’t familiar enough with the industry to know that the numbers didn’t add up, it might have taken more than three sentences into the report for me to straighten it out.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a carpenter!

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