I think I’m Turning European…I really think so

Wall Street Journal wine writers Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, in writing about the loosening of state laws that make access to wine easier, made note that what we need to develop in this country is a "Culture of Wine."

You hear a lot about different "Cultures" these days: "Culture of Death", "Culture of Life", "gay sub-cultures"….All these cultures are pretty hard to define.  They usually mean something different depending on what the user of the phrase believes. But, it makes you wonder exactly what a "Culture of Wine" implies.

One thing it implies, that not everyone would like, is that America would have to become more like Europe…or at least adopt more European sensibilities. Surely the "Culture of Wine" the Journal writers refer to means, simply, drinking wine more often. This in turn implies that more emphasis be placed on pleasure…an idea that is too often associated in American with sloth, "liberalism", and secularism. Can we get there?

A "Culture of Wine" also implies the diminution of the current "Fast Food Culture" that we most assuredly live within. Fast Food is the enemy of wine. You don’t drink wine in your car. You don’t wolf down wine. There is nothing about wine that is associated with "fast".

Finally, the "Wine Culture" as it exists in Europe is decidedly associated with earthly views of what is right and wrong. Very little of European culture has been affected by the notion that drinking is sinful. The very idea that alcohol and its consumption is sinful would be the most foreign view you could bring to the table in most European circles. Yet here in America it is a mainstay of our culture represented in our laws, customs and constitution.

There is a great deal that conspires against Americans adopting a "culture of wine". But don’t count us out. Brecher and Gaiter are right. We are slowly moving toward a loosening of our anti-drinking laws. It’s a natural movement that takes into account the slow evolution of a faith-based society into a society based on rationality, law and fairness. I’m confident that the natural movement of our society and culture will lead Americans to embrace wine more fully. That movement can be sped up or slowed down by things like a media phenomena (The Movie Sideways) or by anomalies (tragic accidents with alcohol at their center.) But the march toward America embracing a "culture of wine" is inevitable.

Posted In: Culture and Wine


4 Responses

  1. A Fool in the Forest - April 26, 2005

    On Wine Online: the 21st Amendment vs. the 21st Century

    Wine and law, jointly or separately, crop up in unexpected places.

  2. James - April 29, 2005

    You paint a rosy picture of the future of America as potential subscribers to the European mentality of wine-drinking as a integral part of the culture (if not the actual “meal” they may be eating at that moment.)
    Sadly, and I say sadly because I want to agree with you, but I do not. Without making any excuses whatsoever for drunk drivers, I see nothing on the horizon that would permit, promote, or encourage a neophyte to take up his Pinot Grigio while dining out.
    If dining at home is the answer to the exploration of the wine culture, then it must be consumed without friends who must drive home.
    This atmosphere that criminalizes the wine drinker, lest he take his chances at a DUI checkpoint, runs so profoundly counter to the promotion of wine as a civilized beverage of moderation and temperence, that I will weep for wine in America – not be encouraged by the Wall Street Journal article.
    Remember the forces that work against wine – there is a two billion dollar advertising budget at Anheuser Busch that will make certain that a 21 year old’s first drink will be a Bud. Not a Merlot.
    The slow and natural movement towards wine simply cannot happen until two things occur – one, the culture swings wildly towards wine as the beverage of choice, and I am not holding my breath; and two, I will paraphrase Jefferson who said “no nation is drunken where wine is cheap.”
    Got Cheap wine anyone?

  3. tom - April 29, 2005

    If you can’t appreciate someone who quotes Thomas Jefferson in perfect context then you can’t appreiate anyone. Well put, James. However, I will offer this rebuttal. Wine is cheap. You can find cheap wine everywhere. And it’s not bad either. But also, I do see a swing towards wine as a beverage of choice. Not a wild swing, but let’s say a move.
    Cultural evolutions are slow business. I think America is taking up the business of slowly moving toward wine.

  4. flow - August 30, 2005

    This year for the first time, wine edged out beer as the preferred alcoholic beverage. America is indeed taking up the business of slowly moving toward wine. One of the ways we wine-knows can hasten this is to insist on better wines and better wine service at private events. Don’t the caterers understand that it really makes them look bad when they are serving Beringer White Zinfandel in thick, heavy, blue-tinted goblets at Susie and Bobby’s wedding reception? Would they serve Milwaukee’s Best or some other value-priced beer? Of course not.
    Yet I have been to countless receptions around the country where the food is excellent, the decor and entertainment is first rate, and the wine being served is Foxhorn Merlot or Corbet Canyon White Zinfandel. When is the last time you went to a wedding reception or a corporate holiday party and raved about the great wines you had?
    Now I’m not talking about wine and cheese receptions or wine dinners or wine tastings. I’m talking about every other type of private event where wine is NOT the focus. Why does wine have to be the focus of the event before you can expect to be served good wine? Why not incorporate the wine and food pairing component into every event?
    I suggest that you contact the caterer for every private event you attend and tell them how disappointing the wines were. Let’s start a grass-roots movement in this country to raise the bar on the quality and selection of wines and the quality of wine service at catered events!

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