It was what they’d all been waiting for. The Rapture.
For a short period of time the prices of Natural Wines skyrocketed. Demand far outstripped supply. It wasn’t unheard of for a thirty dollar bottle to sell in excess of $300. But the winemaker had to have vanished May 16, 2013, the Day of The Rapture. That was what validated that the wines were genuinely “natural.” Just as a painter’s works jump in value upon his death, so the last of the true Natural Wines became priceless. Wines left behind in barrels were confiscated, moved to a central warehouse, and closely monitored by the government to ensure they weren’t manipulated in any way. Professional critics were enlisted to periodically check the barrels to make absolutely sure they were reassuringly faulty and malodorous to normal people. Once bottled, without both sulfites and conscience, in tribute to the vanished winemakers, the wines were auctioned and the money distributed to the widows and children left behind by The Rapture.
Controversy and violent protests broke out in wine regions across the world. Hundreds and hundreds of winemakers who had declared their wines “natural” had been Left Behind. Left behind unjustly, they proclaimed. A spokeswoman emerged, the champion of the Natural Wine movement, and the maligned, still alive, natural winemakers rallied behind her, calling themselves The Feiring Squad.
“Our wines are natural,” The Feiring Squad declared, “and we have the marketing material to prove it. Furthermore, our wines have been declared Natural, been declared Real, been declared Authentic by the experts empowered to declare them so. They have tasted the wines! Did the God who delivered The Rapture ever taste our wines? Who does He think he is? Robert Parker? He may be God, but He’s no Robert Parker.
“We have been blessed by the writings of Alice, legitimized in the works of the Hobbit Jamie Goode, made real, like Pinocchio, by the Good Fairy Jeremy Parzen, and yet we remain. Our brothers and sisters who were taken from us during what is now referred to as The Wine Rapture most assuredly deserved their disappearances. I think every wine lover applauds their disappearance. But The Feiring Squad protests! We should have been taken too.”
Some desperate winemakers, who had disingenuously declared their wines natural, went into hiding, pretending that they had vanished during The Rapture. They anonymously posted on popular wine blogs, declaring themselves “vanished” in an attempt to drive the prices of their wines higher, and to save their manufactured reputations. But most finally had to emerge from hiding and admit that they hadn’t actually made Natural Wine in the first place. “I didn’t really manipulate my wine that much,” one said, as he was publicly humiliated and scorned, “I spent most of my time manipulating the press. I lied, I exaggerated, I hid a few facts, who did it hurt? If it weren’t for that fucking Rapture, I’d still be a hero to the shitheads who believe in Natural Wine.”
Husbands and wives left behind that fateful May Day in 2013 also formed an alliance, Spouses Overwhelmed Too, abbreviated SO2. SO2 members dressed exclusively in white and were invited to attend every serious winery’s blessing of the Harvest, where they spoke of their beloved taken by The Rapture, their beloved’s purity and devotion to wine, their lost partner’s belief that only Nature and God can make wine that is worth drinking and that a winemaker doesn’t need skill or discernment or a background in chemistry and viticulture to make wine, a winemaker just needs blind devotion to non-intervention and a really gullible mailing list. SO2 members were considered saints and clairvoyants, and wonderful paint ball targets.
The reward for those who had actually followed the rigorous standards of Natural Wine was being taken to Heaven by The Rapture. Those lucky few, one who had been having unnatural intercourse with a miniature sheep when he abruptly vanished, leaving ewe perplexed, and one who had been speaking at a winemaker dinner at a Vegan restaurant when he suddenly wasn’t there any more, his audience turning pale and gaseous (in other words, unchanged), among others, would forever be revered as Natural Winemakers. No scientific explanation was ever offered for their massive disappearance. None was needed. God had called them home to tend his Heavenly vineyards, to make wine only for Him. God knows it wouldn’t kill Him, anyway.
The Feiring Squad eventually disbanded, their pleas and excuses unheeded and disbelieved. Alice was left to write only obituaries, to beg to taste the last of the Natural Wines to have been auctioned off, to whither away into wine obscurity, alone with her inflatable Nicholas Joly doll, otherwise known as Nicholas Joly. SO2 became a mere footnote to The Rapture, their presence at an event a reminder of the basic dishonesty in the Natural Wine movement, their number so small compared to those who had lied and lied and yet whose spouses were never left behind.
Twenty years later it was back. Climate change was still on the world’s back burner, the one that burns petroleum. Many of the large mammals of the world had gone extinct, including most NFL players. The oceans were rising faster than the water in Marvin Shanken’s bathtub when he gets in. And Natural Wines, Real Wines, Authentic Wines returned.
But there was no Second Rapture. “Fuck ‘em,” God said, “if they’re that stupid.”