A Dying Culture’s Last Words
The European Community wants to ban the sale of U.S. wines that carry on their label the terms "Clos", "Chateau", "Vintage", "Vintage Character", and "Classic", among others.
If you ever wanted really good, solid evidence that the European culture was speeding toward insignificance, this trade position just might be it.
There was a time when the Europeans were in the business of imperialism and colonizing. And they were damn good at it too. Sure, they tended to point their colonial and imperial ambitions most successfully at countries that were smaller and less technologically advanced, but still the Europeans were pretty good at being bullies.
One of the primary tactics of the old European colonial impulse was to not just accumulate control of lands and natural resources that belonged to other people, but to leave behind their culture and language. By doing so, an imperial power didn't just enjoy the benefits of raping lands and peoples, but they were able to undermine the indigenous culture and go a long way toward replacing it or overlaying it with their own culture.
This tactic, at least for the European colonialists, made it a heck of a lot easy to do more raping and pillaging of other people's lands and resources in the future, as well as to enjoy a nice holiday without much effort.
Now, the Europeans have not only given up any imperial or colonial ambitions, but they are insisting that their own culture, particularly in the form of language, never be glorified on products that make their way back to the homeland.
Ready for the irony? The European Community must have, at some point, decided that their own home markets were at risk of being raped and pillaged by former colonies who in fact adopted the language that was once imposed upon these colonies by these Europeans.
The process of the European Community banning the use words like "Classic", "Vintage", "Vintage Character", "Chateau" and "Clos" on wine labels is a complicated one that involves intercontinental negotiations, the World Trade Organization, input by Non-Governmental organizations and associations of producers who have skin in the game.
I have no way of knowing this, but my gut tells me that U.S. trade negotiators will eventually cave, forget the obscene silliness of this European demand and agree to accept a ban on American winemakers exporting wine to Europe that have the word "Classic" or "Vintage" or "Chateau" on the label. Already America's own trade associations appear to be caving. You see this when you read the Napa Valley Vintners issuing this statement: "When it comes to the use of words not used to describe a place or an origin, we don't have strong opinions about that."
Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe it's not necessary to have a strong opinion on the attempted theft of generic terms that have no geographic meaning and no implications for quality or place of origin. But maybe the Napa Valley Vintners and the U.S. trade negotiators know something else. Maybe they've realized that it just doesn't matter what restrictions the EU places foreign wines to be sold in that region of the world since their opposites at the trade table represent a dying culture whose people don't care to buy the wines from America that long ago outpaced their own in terms of quality. Maybe our trade negotiators and associations realized before the Europeans have that it doesn't matter what restrictions a dying culture puts on their counterparts around the world.