Wine and slow food, plus an argument for liquor warehousing
If you want to understand good wine, you’re already halfway there if you appreciate good food.
According to wine marketer Doug Reichel, “Quality wine is all about food.”
He was the guest speaker at a recent salon hosted by Slow Food Saskatoon, where he talked about the role of international wine in the concept of slow food.
Slow Food is an international movement that links quality of food with quality of life. Slow Food Saskatoon is Saskatchewan’s only chapter. Members promote good food, produced locally and with care to the environment.
As a marketer (he operates finewinessask. com), Reichel’s job is to find quality wines from around the world that he thinks over-deliver at the price point. That involves a lot of travel, a lot of wine tasting and a lot of talking to winemakers. Most of the wines in his profile are organic or bio-dynamic because they taste better and last longer after opening.
“When you start with healthy grapes that didn’t have to be chemically processed in the vineyard, you don’t have to do as much to them later,” he said.
In countries like Portugal, where wine has been made for over 3,000 years, the libation was always meant to be enjoyed with food. Historically, wine was intended to feed the community.
In a good wine, vintages are important because no two are ever the same (except for the mass produced ones). If you like to eat local food, the concept is easy to understand.
“The same notion that drives you about locality is the same as vintages of wine,” said Reichel.
In an agricultural province like Saskatchewan, our ties to food production are closer than we think. Yet, as Slow Food president Noelle Chorney pointed out at the salon, “We tend to undermine our agricultural roots here. We’re always comparing ourselves to somewhere else.”
Reichel proposed a challenge: Appreciate what we can grow here and that food’s value.
Saskatchewan has a higher percentage of octogenarians than Japan. Our grandparents ate preserves all winter, were active and stayed healthy.
“Now we water and take care of the lawn, but not the garden. We’ve given up the authority to others to feed us,” said Reichel.
He said drinking international wine helps us embrace local food; the two make for a happy marriage.
He advises that if you’re going to spend money on wine imported to Saskatchewan, try to choose ones that don’t come from commercial gardens.
“(Spend it on) international wine that’s produced with care to the environment and with local in mind,” he said. “Use the tradition of European countries as they’ve listened to the soil and the grapes and their local food.”
Another way to understand wine, is by attempting to understand our North American view of food.
Reichel just returned from a wine scouting mission in Spain and France. He noticed people don’t snack and that convenience foods were non-existent. Meals lasted at least two hours. The notion of all-you-can-eat is foreign.
“What is it about our thinking that makes us think a place that serves a lot is a good place?”
Once Reichel has sourced the wine he wants to bring to Saskatchewan, he approaches government liquor buyers to import it to the province. Once a wine has been accepted, he promotes it to the public.
Reichel said there’s a lot of misinformation around the public versus private liquor debate in Saskatchewan right now. He believes we need both systems. But simply expanding retail locations will not improve price or selection for consumers.
According to Reichel, warehousing rights is the bigger issue and one for which he has been lobbying the government. Saskatchewan currently operates on a double warehousing scenario. Wine is imported from the source country to a warehouse in British Columbia or Alberta. Saskatchewan then brings in that specialty wine from one of those province’s warehouses. Doing so raises the price upwards of 30 per cent.
“Tens of millions of dollars are spent funnelling Saskatchewan money into British Columbia and into Alberta to access the selection of wines agents have in warehouses in places where they’re allowed to have their products,” he said.
Warehouses are currently operated solely by SLGA in the province. The problem is that one government warehouse is not big enough to bring in all of the wines the public would like to drink. Reichel said keeping the SLGA warehouses is fine, but he would like to see wine agents allowed to operate additional warehouses.
“This is not a public or private debate. I’m for both; I think both have their benefits. The issue is warehousing.”
Warehousing would allow agents to bring in product at their expense. The government would receive liquor taxes as soon as the wines move out of the warehouse, and the public would get an improved selection of specialty products at competitive prices.
For more information about Slow Food, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Competitive selection and pricing is about warehousing accessibility