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Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink

Tyler Colman
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 208
  • Book Info
    Wine Politics
    Book Description:

    After reading this intriguing book, a glass of wine will be more than hints of blackberries or truffles on the palate. Written by the author of the popular, award-winning website,Wine Politicsexposes a little-known but extremely influential aspect of the wine business-the politics behind it. Tyler Colman systematically explains how politics affects what we can buy, how much it costs, how it tastes, what appears on labels, and more. He offers an insightful comparative view of wine-making in Napa and Bordeaux, tracing the different paths American and French wines take as they travel from vineyard to dining room table. Colman also explores globalization in the wine business and illuminates the role of behind-the-scenes players such as governments, distributors, and prominent critics who wield enormous clout. Throughout,Wine Politicsreveals just how deeply politics matters- right down to the taste of the wine in your glass tonight.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93473-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Sidebars
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER 1 What Is Wine Politics?
    (pp. 1-6)

    The year 2005 was the best of times and the worst of times in Bordeaux. While some producers’ wines fetched record prices, others went to the distillery to be turned into ethanol. The unusually dry summer gave way to sufficient rain to endow the vintage with a legendary quality. Château Haut-Brion, whose wines many critics called outstanding or perfect, priced its wine at $500 a bottle. Other châteaux doubled or tripled their prices from the previous year. Wine from Château Petrus, always among the costliest, sold for $2,000 a bottle—where it could be found. Retailers in London and Los...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Soil and Society Wines in France and America before 1935
    (pp. 7-36)

    France had a reputation for producing fine wines well before the modern period. Ships laden with the wines of Bordeaux were traveling to Britain, Holland, and beyond centuries before the formal classification system for French wines was established in 1855. Their fame extended to the Americas: while serving as ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson amassed a collection of French wines that he later shipped home. The challenge faced by French winemakers, then, was not how to make fine wines but rather how to maintain and protect their wines’ reputation. The story of French wine from around 1850 to 1935 was...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Authenticating Origins Appellations and Quality
    (pp. 37-66)

    “We don’t make wine to please consumers,” a senior wine-industry official told me in his Paris office in 2000. “We make wines that are typical of theirterroirs. Fortunately for us, consumers like them.”¹

    This is one way to make wine—add a dash of arrogance. However, within a few years of his remark, this strategy was showing distinct limitations. Exports had dropped sharply, and the domestic market had also shrunk. The wines might still have expressed the qualities of theterroir, or growing area, but consumers no longer seemed to like them as much. A closer look at the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Baptists and Bootleggers The Strange Bedfellows of American Wine
    (pp. 67-102)

    In December 1995, a fourteen-year-old boy in Kentucky called a store in Los Angeles and ordered some Budweiser, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey to be shipped to his home. Although the purchase of such readily available items for shipment across the country (including the whiskey, which came from neighboring Tennessee) should have at least raised an eyebrow, the clerk processed the order without even asking the age of the person placing it. When the boy opened the shipment in Kentucky, he was surrounded by journalists and camera crews that his father had called in to document the ease of...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Who Controls Your Palate?
    (pp. 103-124)

    In this era of globalization, is wine becoming homogeneous? As consolidation has swept the industry, giving rise to more corporate brands, some argue that consumers are doomed to an era in which brand equals bland. Further, some critics have become so powerful that wine producers from around the world make wines explicitly to satisfy their palates. Does the rise of corporations and critics mean the end of diversity in wine?

    The cases of Yellow Tail were stacked to twice my height. Was I in a distributor’s warehouse? No, I was in Sam’s Wine and Spirits in Chicago. The store is...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Greens, Gripes, and Grapes
    (pp. 125-144)

    Soscol Ridge may not be a vineyard that many fans of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon know by name. But some of the grapes from this young vineyard, on a cool slope in south Napa, are destined for greatness: they are blended into Joseph Phelps’s Insignia. The wine is a perennial favorite of collectors and critics and fetches $125 in a store—when it’s available. After Phelps bought the Soscol Ridge property in 1999 and the company wanted to expand the vineyard’s plantings, it encountered an unexpected set of obstacles: not rocky soil or the slope on part of the property, but...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Celebrating Diversity
    (pp. 145-148)

    On a rocky alluvial plain that the locals rejected as worthless for decades, several growers in New Zealand have taken an innovative approach to turning real property into intellectual property. Growers in this part of the Hawke’s Bay region saw that their poor, rocky soil resembled the gravels of Bordeaux. The temperature, too, is similar to that of Bordeaux and the Rhône, as well as Coonawarra in Australia and Napa in California. Starting in the 1980s, and with more fervor in the 1990s and the current decade, the growers planted the grape varieties of Bordeaux and the Rhône, notably Merlot,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 149-166)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-172)
  15. Index
    (pp. 173-186)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 187-189)