‘Wineism’: A political philosophy of wine that espouses tolerance
When we are in a wine store choosing a bottle to take home for dinner, our choices essentially boil down to “Does it taste good?” and “Is the price right?” Beyond those basic concerns, though, choices abound. Maybe we choose a wine because the label is attractive. Or it’s local. Some wines’ profits support philanthropic causes or social activism. Perhaps we favor environmentally friendly wines that advertise sustainable, organic or biodynamic practices. Some people favor wines from small family producers rather than large corporations.
Those choices reflect who we are and our outlook on life. But is there a common outlook, or philosophy, or even political ideology that defines wine lovers? The British wine writer Andrew Jefford, in a January column on Decanter.com, the website of Britain’s leading wine magazine, argued that there is — or there should be.
Jefford called this outlook “Wineism.” That’s not an appealing name, but I’ve yet to think of a better one. And it’s a decidedly progressive view, embracing tolerance and inclusion, which could be controversial. I know people in the wine trade who are politically conservative. Yet while they might not lean to the left as Jefford does, they invariably share the generous spirit that unites wine lovers.
Jefford was reacting to three political movements he saw endangering the free trade of wine: Catalonia’s independence movement, which threatens to tear Spain asunder; the British exit from the European Union; and President Trump’s advocacy of trade tariffs and skepticism toward climate change.
Wine was a major commodity of international commerce in medieval times, and it has always promoted and benefited from free trade. “Our wine is what it is today because of 800 years of international trade,” Jefford argues. “Its sensual intricacy and refinement, and the prosperity of those involved in farming, creating and trading it, would collapse without international trade.” A love of wine is conducive to an international outlook. It argues against parochialism.
Wine celebrates difference. “If you drink branded vodka, whisky or beer, you replicate the same experience each time,” Jefford wrote. “If you drink wine, you dive into a world of multiple differences” — vintage, place of origin, grape variety, etc. “Wine teaches us the valuable lesson that nothing is ever truly the same twice, either in place or time, and that differences merit respect.”
Wine also refuses to be locked into a single identity. It may be red, but also American, Californian, cabernet, merlot or pinot, Napa or Santa Barbara, Howell Mountain or Happy Canyon. And I’m not just an old white male. I’m a French soul trapped inside a Scottish-IrishAmerican body, and I embrace my multiple identities and contradictions.
And rather than “Britain first” with Brexit, or “America First,” Jefford advocates “the environment first.” “Wine is agriculture, and agriculture is wholly dependent on the environment and our relationship to the environment,” he said, reminding us that “there are no national boundaries in nature.”
That brings us back to how we spend our money when buying wine. Several wineries dedicate some or all of the proceeds from certain wines to charitable causes. Smith Story Wines donates clothing to displaced mothers and their children. Colby Red supports research on heart disease. Lubanzi Wines sends money back to South Africa to help support the farmers who grow the grapes, with the catchphrase, “Locally run, globally minded.”
Iron Horse Vineyards, a Sonoma County producer of topnotch sparkling wines, recently released the 10th vintage of its Ocean Reserve bubbly, with proceeds benefiting the National Geographic Society. The winery has also released wines in support of progressive causes, such as a Rainbow Cuvee for LGBT rights and another to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality.
Iron Horse donates $4 for each sale of Ocean Reserve to National Geographic’s efforts to establish marine protected areas and promote sustainable fishing practices. Chief executive Joy Sterling says the Ocean Reserve campaign reflects viticulture’s relationship to the environment.
“The health of the ocean is key to our microclimate and ability to make bubbly on this level of finesse and elegance,” Sterling said in an email. “It is all intertwined.”
Such are the choices we make when we purchase wine. Skeptics needn’t feel left out. They may prefer Iron Horse’s delicious Russian Cuvee, or perhaps a tasty bubbly from Trump Winery. Each year I recommend kosher wines for Passover, and this year’s crop is the best so far. They include a delightful Cotes du Rhone and Bordeaux from the excellent 2016 vintage in France, a delicious chardonnay from Chile, a lush Israeli cabernet and a zesty South African sauvignon blanc spiced with a bit of humor. That last wine is the only one in this bunch to catch on to a potential market niche by noting “vegan” on the label. All kosher wines are vegan, as the rules do not allow use of animal-based fining agents to clarify the wine. — D.M. GREAT VALUE La Fille du Boucher Cotes du Rhone 2016 Rhone Valley, France, $18 This lively wine is just what we expect from Cotes du Rhone: bright dark fruit flavors with a hint of wild herbs and mountain air. I’d drink this any day of the year, but preferably the day after it’s opened; it gets even better with some air. Kosher for Passover. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent. Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Burka’s Wine & Liquor, Cairo Wine & Liquor, Capital City Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Harry’s Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, Magruder’s, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s, Wine Specialist. Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop and Wine Harvest in Potomac, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Moti’s Market in Rockville, Old Farm Liquors and Riverside Liquors in Frederick, Quench! Beer-Wine-Deli in Silver Spring, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington. La Citadelle de Diamant Marius Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Galilee, Israel, $29 A stylish splurge, with cabernet sauvignon’s rich, velvety texture and black currant flavors, spiced up with white pepper from 20 percent cabernet franc in the blend. Kosher for Passover. ABV: 14 percent. Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Capital City Wine & Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Kosher Bite in Baltimore, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Vineyards Elite in Pikesville. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean. GREAT VALUE Alta Delta Chardonnay 2015 Central Valley, Chile, $12 Mouth-filling and soft in texture, this delicious and gulpable chardonnay offers an orchard’s worth of fruit. Mevushal, Kosher for Passover “and year round.” ABV: 13.5 percent. Distributed by DMV: Available in the District at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Yes! Organic Market (14th Street). Available in Maryland at Country Liquors in Westminster, Dawson’s Market and Moti’s Market in Rockville, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Good to Go in Friendsville, Kosher Bite and Village Wines & Liquors in Baltimore, Montgomery County Liquor & Wine (Cabin John, Goshen Crossing, Wheaton), Old Farm Liquors in Frederick. La Tour Pavée Bordeaux Supérieur 2016 Bordeaux, France, $16 La Tour Pavée took full advantage of Bordeaux’s excellent vintage in 2016. The wine offers black currant flavors and a graphite minerality that wine fiends tend to call “pencil lead” or “pencil shavings.” It’s a Bordeaux signature and might just take you back to school. Mevushal, Kosher for Passover. ABV: 12.5 percent. Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Capital City Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Giant Liquor, Rodman’s, Wine Specialist. Available in Maryland at Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer in Gaithersburg, Hillandale Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Moti’s Market in Rockville, Nick’s of Calvert in Prince Frederick, Old Farm Liquors and Riverside Liquors in Frederick, Olde Soloman’s Wine & Spirits in Edgewater, the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars and the Vineyard in McLean, the Wine Outlet (Great Falls, Vienna). GREAT VALUE Unorthodox Kosher Sauvignon Blanc 2017 South Africa, $14 This kosher white wine has a sense of humor to match the zip of acidity and guava flavors that make it as refreshing as it is delicious. The same label also has a delicious cabernet-shiraz blend. Marked as Mevushal, Kosher for Passover and vegan. ABV: 13.5 percent. Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Burka’s Wine & Liquor, Capital City Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Harry’s Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Cork 57 Beer and Wine in Bethesda; Miller’s Delicatessen in Baltimore; Moti’s Market in Rockville; Old Farm Liquors, Riverside Liquors and Ye Olde Spirit Shop in Frederick; Quench! Beer-Wine-Deli in Silver Spring; Vineyards Elite in Pikesville; Wine Bin in Ellicott City; the Wine Harvest in Potomac. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington, Department of Beer and Wine and Unwined in Alexandria, Kohlmann’s Neighborhood Market in Richmond, the Town Duck in Warrenton; on the list at Perly’s in Richmond. Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
DCanter wine boutique in Southeast Washington arranges smallproduction vintages by flavor, not region.
Wine was a commodity of international commerce in medieval times, and it has always promoted and benefited from free trade.