( Local grape harvest in Lee, NH. )
Wine lovers have their own religion and their own politics. After getting a bit of a handle on the many differences within the community I have found that it all makes as much coherent sense as so many other things in our society, e.g. not much. A great many different perspectives based on diverse experiences are brought to bear, and the veracity of personal opinions turn preferences into crusades for supposed authenticity.
One of the points of contention between different groups of the faithful is the "localness" of the wine. Simply stated we are talking about the hierarchy of "locally grown" above "locally made". I'll also add to this the sense of place that surrounds the locations where "great" wines are grown and why that makes them more special than wines made combining multiple and "lesser" sources either local to the winery or much farther afield. Is this really true? Better for who? There is plenty of historical precedent for places and rules, and I am not suggesting at all that their shouldn't ever be any rules; but what exactly makes sense in the New World when the goal we all shouldn't lose sight of is fostering business and making money flow so people have jobs? We aren't the old places and not everyone wants to be them, so why are we trying?.
There is a glut of murky terminology used by some actors to try to distinguish themselves in this and other regards in the wine world. Words like real and honest are hard to clarify in the context that folks try to apply them. What is the opposite called and what is the specific difference? Unreal and dis-honest don't make sense. How is a wine made from grapes from out of the area not real or not honest, especially if the source is disclosed by the winemaker? Why should they not be allowed to do this if it makes business sense for them? Don't we want the market to mete out what of those types of choices work in the long run?
The 800lb gorilla (which Tom Wark nailed this week) goes like, "so all respectable craft should be 100% local?" and this question is still out there. I say no just on the principle that our societal evolution to a global network requires some accommodation for the new and different. Do we hold beer, all food, art, music, furniture (again Tom nailed this), etc, etc, to the same standard? If yes, ok; let's just say that such people are a mighty specific group and if this is how you roll, by all means go for it. If the answer is no, then why do we hold wine to such a standard?
What are the goals? That depends. At first glance you have a consumer perspective and a producer perspective. Sales trends suggest that while the majority of wine drinkers still don't choose to know what they drink much better than it takes to acquire it. Trends in craft beer, small production wine and micro-distillation do support the assertion of an up-tick in interest for wines that are produced on a smaller scale by someone with a specific principles and a passionate story driving them to make the stuff. The consumer is then two groups, one containing the average consumers and another containing something else, a super-consumer if you will.To the super-consumer people, places, specifics and philosophies do matter, but only because they choose for them to.
To me this is really a matter of taste, and I consider one of Terry Thiese's philosophies as a good guide. Don't look or talk down to people who have tastes such that they don't really appreciate wines that are universally considered fine (or meet your standards, whatever they may be), but in return don't allow them to suggest just because they have different tastes that your own refined tastes should be reviled as pretentious bullshit. Walk on the other side of the street if you want, but calling them out and suggesting that their lacking (your opinion) and the products they like shouldn't be allowed is just poor form. If you want your wine more or less local, have at it! Mine isn't better for me than yours is for you, and vice versa. Whether we recognize the fineness or localness in the product doesn't say anything good or bad about it or ourselves.Can't we all just get along?
Producers have a range of motivations, but for so many that I have asked these questions of they say they WANT to do as much as they can themselves and/or locally, but they are also trying to run a business and having options always make that process less stressful. There is plenty of theology thrown around when you get a group of producers talking about this topic, but in places where they are used to collaborating and working well together, you'll be sure to see more than one ranking opinion! If they don't agree on a "right" way, what are consumers doing pushing a more specific agenda?
Assuming anyone reads this I expect the flames to be duly fanned. I support a range of choices and drink what I like after I have experienced it in a way that fits my needs. I don't tell other people what they should or shouldn't drink and I definitely do not tell producers how to run THEIR businesses. But that doesn't mean I won't ask questions and won't make recommendations that all together are designed to increase the transparency of how products are made so producers can make what works for them AND consumers can choose the products that fit their politics the best. How do you do wine?