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Here’s a Real Contradiction

Two advertising campaigns, one for Starburst candy the other for Miller Genuine Draft 64, are running with similar taglines – “It’s a Juicy Contradiction” and “A Tasty Contradiction,” respectively.  While mildly interesting as a footnote in Advertising Age magazine, what’s more interesting to me (at least from a contradiction perspective), are the “juicy” and “tasty” competing forces we’re seeing in the wine world.

It used to be that a trend was a trend – until it stopped being a trend, embedded as cultural fact, exposed as fad or reversed by competing forces.

The Baby Boomer led growth of Chardonnay and Merlot that lasted for fifteen years or more (and still felt today), comes to mind as one enduring wine trend.  Yet, nowadays, our zeitgeist is so accelerated that we’re faced with competing trends that are diametrically opposed to each other.  Color me confused because we’re the midst of simultaneous movements as confounding as 5th period Organic Chemistry.

Consider the fact that at no time has our global wine marketplace ever been more diverse.  Just today, I was tipped off to the Wines of Tunisia – from North Africa for those of you that slept through Organic Chemistry AND World Geography.

This past weekend I read a fascinating article about Swiss wine in a new culturally-centric, down to earth travelogue magazine called “Afar.” (As a parenthetical aside, “Afar” is a must read companion to Saveur magazine as they are similar in editorial style and erudite accessibility – NPR-like for travel and food)

Throw in some vino from Tasmania, the Republic of Georgia, India, China and additional countries that are represented in the World Cup (see the 2010 World Cup of Wine here) and diversity is at an all-time high, a veritable United Nations at the wine shop.

Yet, on the flip side there is also a burgeoning local wine movement.  Some called it being a Locapour, a variation on the locavore movement of eating local, which has significant momentum vis a vis farmers markets and the like.

Drinking local is gaining as a regional grassroots movement, particularly as areas like Virginia, Michigan, Texas and parts in between increase in quality by leaps and bounds.

Is it possible to be politely xenophobic about your wine while the global village continues its growth?  Or, alternatively, will Francophiles become global wine polyglots, forsaking the local?  Or, are we seeing the growth of a third pattern – all the worlds a vineyard, drink from its sweet cup and worship the nectar of the Gods, wherever you may worship?

I don’t have an answer, I’m curious if you do, however.  Leave a comment on how you classify your drinking:  “local,” “global” or “Ghandi” (I love everything) and what you think will happen with the competing forces between globalization and local and artisanal.

I’ll buy a one year subscription to Afar magazine for the provider of the best comment.

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Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (30) |


Comments

On 06/07, Kimberly Cabot wrote:

We started as organic farmers before we planted grapes and made wine.  Our local, organic support here in Humboldt County, CA has been the backbone of our business.  It is important to put your money into your community.  I vote with my dollar on a small, local scale and have an impact.  I also appreciate wines from other areas and feel that I can support good wine at a good price from anywhere in the world.  The carbon footprint with shipping is a concern for sure and does need to be considered.

On 06/08, Fred wrote:

I believe in the Wilt Chamberlain approach and have set a personal goal of finding 20,000 different wines to, um, love. If only for one night.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_life_of_Wilt_Chamberlain#Love_life_and_.2220.2C000_women.22_claim>

On 06/08, raelinn wrote:

Nice post!  I am all kinds of excited at the diversity of the wines we can get our hands on! I’m both a Francophile and a Locavore, but nothing makes me happier than trying wines from places I’ve never tried before!! Vive la diffrence!

On 06/08, Katie wrote:

So funny you mention Afar, as I received a sales piece from them in the mail a few months back trying to get me to subscribe (because I subscribe to Saveur I guess) and it did look intriguing…now I got it from the horse’s mouth.

The crux of drinking locally/globally comes down to one simple, essential problem, and I say that by bypassing the entire “green” issue of which does less damage to our environment: shipping from overseas, or shipping across ground nationally. The problem is that whether you are a winery from a state other than the Big 3 on the west coast, or a winery from a country other than those that readily line our store shelves, getting the attention of the consumer is a daunting task.

While the rest of the Pacific Coast is doing its best to give California a run for its money, plenty of great wine is being made in other states that dont readily roll off the tongue when discussing American wine. Florida doesnt carry any New York wines, Ohio doesnt carry any Georgia wines, and Im pretty sure nobody but Jersey carries any Jersey wines, simply because these small wineries have no distribution outside their home state. While distributors busy themselves, focusing on the large wineries whose product they know they can move, the small boutique winery from Virginia struggles to survive despite the fact that it is producing great wine. Why? Because no one has heard of it. Thus, how can we support our “local” (meaning domestic) wineries if we have nearly no access to them, especially given our archaic ship-to-consumer regulations?

The same can be said for the likes of Tunisia, The Republic of Georgia, Croatia, etc. If these wines even manage to make it onto a store shelf where it competes for space against the Europeans, South Americans, Australians, etc., the average consumer is often hesitant to throw down 15 or 20 bones to try a wine they’ve never heard of from a country they can’t locate on a map (present enophiles excluded). So, though it’s certainly exciting for us to see these wine cultures emerging, I don’t envy their struggles for presence in a saturated industry.

On 06/08, Jeff Lefevere wrote:

thanks for the comments so far ...

Fred—I always fancied you as aligned with Gene Simmons’ prodigious skill, not Wilt Chamberlain.

Katie, thanks for the thoughtful comment.  Access to market is an astute point, but a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, I suppose. 

Personally, I would love to see more NY and VA wine in Indiana.  But, then, I’d love to see more selection here in general!

jeff

On 06/08, Joe wrote:

Katie for the win!  Pretty much said what I wanted to say.
 
I scratch my head at the fact that many Atlanta “locavore” restaurants serve ingredients from around the corner, but wines from Paso Robles.  However, from a business perspective, I get that the restaurants don’t want to have to put a not-very-marketable Georgia wine on the menu for $50-60, when something from Argentina or Australia can sell for less, and have more perceived quality.  Furthermore, the local wineries don’t want to sell to restaurants.  Why sell at a wholesale price when you can butter your bread off of retail sales to weekend visitors?

In the end, I think the market will swell and contract, and the widely-distributed wines will mostly come from the “traditional” wine regions.  I think examples like Spain and Argentina emerged as huge quality wine export markets because traditional powers like France didn’t adapt in pricing and marketing.  As regions like the Languedoc emerge and more varietal labeling permeates the market, I think these countries will ebb and flow, and the opportunities for new major exporters will dry up (with the exception of countries with the potential of say a China or a Brazil, provided the quality wine production increases).

On 06/08, Katie wrote:

Geez, Joe, you know how much I love music…perhaps a, “You took the words right out of my mouth..” would’ve been in order, LOL!

On 06/08, Jeff Lefevere wrote:

Katie,

I will be selecting the comment via random number generator (random.org), but I always love a Meatloaf reference.  You go ... !

On 06/08, Jeff Lefevere wrote:

Gang,

I deducted duplicate comments and my own comments and then did random number selection and the winner is—raelinn.

raelinn, I’ll send you an email for your mailing address.  You are the big winner of a 1 year subscription to Afar magazine courtesy of me.

Thanks all for reading the site and commenting!

Jeff

On 06/09, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I’ve been drinking wine (without paying attention to what I was consuming) for 30 years, but now I’m interested in trying new wine and actually paying attention—and what do I find?  About 100 wineries and tasting rooms within 15 miles of my home, and another 400 or so within 200 miles.  I think I could spend the next 10 years and not even become really acquainted with the wines of Washington and Oregon.  I guess I’m becoming a “Locapour” guy, even if I spent most of my life in California and the first winery I ever visited was the caves of the Christian Brothers.

On 06/09, Jolan Turkington wrote:

It seems to me that there is an important difference in eating locally and drinking locally: essentially, that many food products, though originally from a specific part of the world, can be grown in many places (tomatoes, potatoes, lychees, etc.). Vitis vinifera grapes are a bit more picky. Certainly you could make a strong globalization argument for certain grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, which have taken over the world (in more ways than one), but I do think that if people prefer the nuances of terroir, a Riesling grown in the Finger Lakes (while delicious in its own right) will make wine so much different from one grown in near the Mosel River.

I think drinking locally should certainly be encouraged, both to support local farmers and to reduce the often painful large carbon footprints, but I doubt the effort will every reach the magnitude of the Eat Locally movement—if simply for lack of variety.

On 06/09, Alan Baker wrote:

I don’t think these are competing movements at all. I think they are driven by the same idea of knowing where your wine/food comes from. If I can experience a wine from Tunisia, I get a look inside how they live. And when I make dinner from our garden, I get to taste things I personally grew in a place I know deeply. I’ve never understood the “ignore the world” part of the drink local scene. I assume those people who employ the Locapour language are using it simply as a marketing device as apposed to a creed to live by.

Alan
Cartograph Wines

On 06/09, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I swear to God, this is the best wine blog on the net!!

On 06/10, Jeff Lefevere wrote:

Thanks, Tom.  That’s a very nice compliment!

Please tell 10,000 of your friends, as well.  grin

Jeff

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