Veni, vidi, vino | Washington Examiner
Ohen you hold a glass of wine in your hand, you contemplate the important role of the noble grape variety in the history of the world. “Wine was the first of the luxuries for millennia of mankind,” wrote Hugh Johnson in History of wine, and was his “only source of comfort and courage, his only medicine and antiseptic.” Wine has been a source of wealth, social status, free enterprise, commerce, cash, and a valuable commodity in times of war.
Another wine war is currently underway, but this one is different from the others. This is linked to the fierce competition between national and international winegrowers. There are more vineyards located in different countries than ever before. The choices between everything from private stock to cost-cutting plonk varieties are endless. Globalization has become the most valuable or regrettable part of this sobering battle for wine supremacy.
Mike Veseth examines this brave new world of fat libations in Wine Wars II: the global battle for the soul of wine. The author, professor emeritus of international political economy at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, is well placed to discuss this topic. He leads the wine economist for years, which was named “Best in the World” wine blog by Gourmand International in 2015. He has also written several books on wine and the global economy, including Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization, Wine Wars: Curse of the Blue Nun, Miracle of Two Buck Chuck and Revenge of the Terrorists, and Around the world in 80 wines.
Veseth weaves an intriguing story of history, politics, philosophy, personal observations, commerce and economics into a slim but entertaining volume. He clearly enjoys using humorous wine-related puns such as “Da Vino Code” and “War on Terroir”. (Terroir is the French word for the idea that the reel of certain places is simply ineffably better suited to growing vines.) He even finds subtle ways to incorporate the likes of Albert Einstein, Barack Obama, Joseph Schumpeter and Adam Smith. and fictional characters such as Secret Squirrel, Pogo, Charlie Brown, and Asterix the Gaul in his general conversation.
Globalization is “literally redrawing the world map of wine,” Veseth wrote, “pushing it away from the Old World, where most of the earth’s wine is still produced, to many New Worlds, where production and consumption are on the rise. While many countries remain in favor of the consumption of national brands, the International Organization of Vine and Wine, which is described as a “kind of UN of the world of wine”, noted that 45% of the wine of today crosses at least one international border. This surge in international brands has led to an increase in the “Two-Buck Chuck” bottles of inexpensive wine that Trader Joe’s and other stores specialize in. This has helped ward off “terroirists,” whom he describes as people who “seek to preserve and protect a more natural, more grounded, culturally grounded idea of wine.
The wine wars aren’t just limited to the Old World versus the New World. Veseth believes that wine is suffering from an “identity crisis” and that “the greatest threat to wine’s identity is something inherent in the existence of wine: alcohol”.
What does he mean, exactly? While most people believe that wine is “just grape juice with alcohol”, it actually “doesn’t taste like the grapes it’s made from, except in a few specific cases. “. Rather, it is the fermentation process that transforms the product into what we call wine, which he says is attacked due to an increase in “anti-alcohol forces”. According to Veseth, “it seems that those who see wine as a social or health issue, and not as an essential part of our culture, have caught the momentum. If wine doesn’t know who and what it is and can’t tell its story to the world, then how can it survive?
The battle lines in the wine wars are rather complex, it seems.
Veseth analyzes how different wine-producing countries have used the global economy to their distinct advantage. New Zealand’s wine industry, for example, is “remarkably globalized”, has become a destination for “flying winemakers” and has grown through the influence of British missionaries, Canadian investors and California-based consultants. The British wine industry has seen tremendous growth thanks to large supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco, the latter of which contracts with wineries to sell products under its own private label. The growth of Two-Buck Chuck varieties can be attributed to winemakers like Ernest Gallo as well as Philip Wagner, a Baltimore-based journalist, winemaker, and winemaker who believed that wine “should be an affordable part of ordinary life and a constant companion at mealtimes”. .”
Branding is another way to succeed in the wine wars. Blue Nun, Mouton Cadet and the Sauvignon Blanc grape grown in New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region have all become household names. There is also the Australian brand Yellow Tail, which has been the top-selling imported wine in the United States for several years. Not because it tasted the best, but rather because of the realization that making wine “without tannin or acid could be very appealing, especially to the majority of Americans who don’t really like wine or at least who don’t drink it very often.” However, once Brand Australia became firmly established in America, that upward trajectory began to gradually slip to the point where countries like China displaced them. and the free market and competition are supposed to work, after all.
Trade is also part of the global wine economic formula. New Zealand and Chile are “embracing globalization as part of a system of liberal market reforms” and have seen their market share grow. Argentina exported enthusiastically to the United States and Great Britain, and its wines are now often found in our homes. South Africa’s old established wine industry survived boom and bust periods and limited global access during apartheid, and has become popular over time. Bilateral trade agreements have also included wine products in recent decades, while China’s decision to impose high tariffs on US wine during Donald Trump’s presidency has effectively crushed a vast export market and huge profits for wineries like a barrel of ripe grapes.
When it comes to wine-driven globalization, it’s probably fair to say that Veseth isn’t always drunk on enthusiasm.
The author noted in a chapter that France remains “wary” of globalization, although it is, like other countries, “both drawn to its opulent allure and appalled by its frightening potential.” and disruptive – just like the rest of us. “It’s not the number of people who see the rise of the global economy for wine or anything else, to be honest. Here again, he is clearly more on the side of “thoughtful terroirists”. If you believe that winemaking and wine production have certain elements of history and tradition that should be preserved and protected, and that bottles of wine should be enjoyed and savored in the company of good food, family and friends, then his rationale is at least partially understandable.
Incorporating some of the strategic insights from the mind of late Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Veseth describes globalization as a “known unknown.” It is unclear whether “the falling tide in global markets as trade barriers appear will be a lasting trend or not.” There are other wild cards, such as the closure of bars and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and the cork industry, which could also play a role in determining winners, losers and even a few. winners… uh, whiners.
Veseth’s intriguing book and his ‘Grape Expectations’ therefore provided important information and research on the wine wars and the future of wine, without leaving sediment at the bottom of your empty glass.
Michael Taube, a columnist for Troy Media and Loonie Politics, was a speechwriter for former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.