Bottle Shock and New European Restrictions
Posted: April 09, 2009
Last Saturday night was movie night at my apartment. We watched the 2008 film Bottle Shock," which retells the story of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, essentially California's entrance into the global wine markets. What I thought might become required viewing for anyone in the world of wine turned out to be a copy/paste love-triangle romance tied in with a classic underdog story which references the world of 1976 Napa instead of existing within it. Apart from Alan Rickman playing Steven Spurrier, the acting is lame. At least it's pretty they get their money's worth out of the helicopter they rented with all the swooping through the air above the vineyard shots. From a wine-guy perspective, you'll get more from the 1976 Time Magazine article than from this film. But then, I'm not a film critic; I'm a wine bloggist. One of the main themes of Bottle Shock is the sense of old-world disdain for these American bumpkins and their lack of tradition in making wine. It's probably got a lot to do with that unfortunate classist perception wine carries with it and probably a bit to do with trade protectionism and competition as well. It made me think of this blog entry I saw about a month ago. This issue has gone largely unreported in wine periodicals, but was brought up in this recent article on Decanter.com. In short, it seems that the European Union is heightening regulation on the importation of US wines labeled with such terms as Chateau and Clos and vintage and Sur Lie. It was years ago that they restricted US wines using location-specific labeling such as Chablis and Champagne, which makes sense, but now they're taking the restrictions a bit farther. I mean, vintage and Sur Lie actually refer to traits in wine and wine making. And a "Chateau" is a castle. They're going to refuse to import US wine because of the word "castle"? Also in recent wine news, the European Union is preparing to relax their restrictions on the production of rosé wine, allowing the mixture of white and reds. The traditional method, of course, involves using red grapes and limiting the juice's contact with the skins, resulting in lighter colored and lighter flavored wines. The story as reported hasn't been about the expansion of new possibilities so much as traditional French producers' indignation at the idea. Maybe it exposes my own naivete, but it makes me cringe whenever those holding on to tradition have to use the law to do it. If tradition is so valuable, then surely the wine market will reflect the superiority of their rosé. ...Right? I don't know if these issues are a huge concern to us in the US or just a cause for petty Internet bickering. I suspect that US imports aren't a significant portion of the European wine market anyway. I mean, if I lived in Italy or France, I'd be sure to drink lots of Italian or French wine. But if that's the case, why impose this regulation at all? In this uneasy period of declining auction prices and undersold futures, it seems like we should all be embracing global wine trade and spreading international good will, not hunkering down toward exclusivity and protectionism. But then, I'm not an expert on international trade regulations; I'm a wine bloggist.