The Peculiarities of Wine Nationalism

french wine in storeThankfully, the 100% tariff proposal is now off the table at least for a few months, so fans of European wines can breathe a little easier.

Speaking of European wines, this article about wine nationalism by Don Kavanaugh at Wine Searcher is interesting and sort of disturbing.

We took a look at wine searches from countries that produce wine and, to be perfectly honest, we assumed the situation would be akin to George Bernard Shaw’s definition of patriotism: the conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it, but it turns out the situation is quite different.

Just four of the 10 countries put their local producers first when searching for wine, while some countries even had merchants who didn’t stock a majority of local wines.

France (of course), Chile, Argentina, and Portugal were the most nationalistic with regard to the number of local wines being offered in wine shops listed on Wine Searcher.

The U.S., Spain, Germany, and New Zealand were the least nationalistic. The figures paint a complex picture especially in the U.S. and Italy. The U.S. consumes mostly domestic U.S. wine (67%). But most of those consumers are not perusing the offers in wine shops or doing searches on Wine Searcher. Only about 43% of the wines on offer in wine shops were domestic. Italy was anomalous as well. Mostly domestic offers in wine shops but lots of searches for global wines.

Praise be to the globalists.

Here is what strikes me as curious. Wine is an aesthetic object and part of what makes wine interesting are the variations it’s capable of producing. And we know terroir matters—the variations are the result of local geography and climate. Drinking some local wine makes sense because it is likely to be distinctive and interesting. But there are interesting terroirs all over the world. If you’re interested in the variation wine is capable of, why would you drink mostly local wine? Of course, cost factors might come into play if imports are expensive and there are environmental reasons for drinking local. But neither explains the fact that the French are exposed to mostly French wine (90% of all offers) and the Chileans are exposed to mostly Chilean wine (93% of all offers).

Now the French invented wine as we know it and tradition dies hard especially in the wine business and especially in France. But if they think no one else can make great wine they’re not paying attention.

And the Chileans? I don’t get it. If you really love wine why the narrow focus?

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