Ideological Wine

ideoloIdeology infects everything. Starting with politics, of course, but ideology and the personal philosophies and world views that inform ideology are seen in the wine industry too.

By “ideology” I mean a philosophy of how the world works or ought to work and, more specifically, how that worldview impacts one’s view of man other subjects and topics. I think it’s rare these days for one’s ideology to place them in the middle as a moderate. More often than not a personal philosophy places one near the poles. Think Conservative v. Liberal. Gun Rights v. Gun Control. More Taxes v. Fewer Taxes. Pro Abortion v. Anti-Abortion.

But what about wine?

Natural Wine
Here’s a wine subject that polarizes the people. At one end are those that fervently believe Naturel Wine is better wine, healthier wine, more authentic wine. On the other end are those that believe Natural Wine is not good wine nor more healthy, nor more authentic. In the middle are those who believe Natural Wine is just a word…likely a marketing word.

I’d argue that the Natural Wine promoters are the conservatives, while the anti-Natural Wine brigade are the liberals. No matter where you place yourself between the poles on the Natural Wine issue, it’s likely that your position is a result of your world view that has trickled down to impart meaning to your wine world view.

Varietal Wines
This is an interesting one. Though you don’t hear it too often anymore, for some time there were people who would insist that some varietals (Zinfandel, Rose, Pinotage, for example), could not be “great wines” or “noble wines”. You don’t here this quite as often as one used to but the idea is still evident when you look at scores and reviews. Rarely do these and a few other varietals ever procure ratings in the high 90s. At the same time there were those who would assure us that such a strident view of these non-noble varietals was hog was and nothing but a glimpse at personal tasting prejudice.

High Alcohol v. Low(er) Alcohol
Here is another example of ideology infecting wine. Over the past decade or so one group has argued that, for example, California wine has risen too high in its alcohol content and become out of balance. Meanwhile, others have argued that the high alcohol is a direct result of 1) what the environment provides and the tastes of those drinking the wines. Interestingly, this latter retort is perfectly true. So here, we have an ideological divide that is really an aesthetic divide.

New World v. Old World
Here is an interesting ideological divide that rarely raises its head anymore. However, not that long ago you would find a fairly large collection of (primarily) Europeans who argued that New World wines could not match the qualitative heights of Old World wines due primarily to the fact that they were so, well, new and, more importantly, their makers did not possess the time making wine to appreciate the terroir they worked with. In reality, what you had here was a simple divide based on nationalism and pride. Still, this ideological split in the wine industry explains why the 1976 Paris Tasting was so consequential.

The silliest of political seasons is again upon us, so it’s not too surprising that ideology might be on mine and other minds. But it’s instructive, I think, to look at where we wine geeks fall on the various enological divides and ask ourselves what worldview or ideology we possess that causes us to land were we do between the poles.

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