In the introduction for The Battle for Wine and Love I talked about a screenplay I wanted to pen: girl journalist finds out about a global plot to kill of the authentic wines of the world, she springs into action.
The plot to kill off authentic wine is not such fiction.
Let's take the plight of two wonderful wineries in different lands, in similar situations, penalized for not lack of quality, tastiness or stability, but solely on their lack of typicity.
Canada's Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) could almost be rebranded as the Anti-Quality Alliance.
All wines of Canada's Ontario must to go through a tasting panel. Even if a wine is good, solid, tasty, might even be delicious, if it isn't typical, the wine is penalized. It is eligble for export, but loses a financial advantage, putting a small winery through tremendous financial hardship. I offer you Pearl Morrisette.
Pearl M. is one of the few Canadian wine amassadors to the United States, it is one of the few wines here getting people excited about what is happening up to our north. Minimalist, it feels right at home on the wine shelves of those who drink naturally. Even though the winery has extremely high standards, even though it's well-regarded, the wines continually have problems have passing through the Alliance.
From a spokesperson within Morrisette, we have this reality, "Non-VQA wines within the province of Ontario are not eligible for LCBO tax rebate. E.g. on a $25 bottle of wine, with VQA - the winery keeps $20, without VQA, the winery keeps $12.56. For a small winery, the loss is getting unbearable and is threatens its existence."
This year their 2012 Black Ball riesling has been refused four times for things like, "wispy sediment,"oxidative aromas and flavours," "unbalanced characteristics." Yet, they at the same time the wine was considered stable. It was just that it was a different expression of riesling.
But, I loved that wine. I shared with my friend, Jeff Connell when in Toronto for the Terroir Symposium in May. Yes, I drank it and loved it. A gorgeous expression of riesling, so enjoyable, I just drank and forgot to take notes. Sorry, I was off duty. (Tasting notes are coming in The Feiring Line Newsletter when I can procure the bottle.) Perhaps the VQA couldn't recognize the varietal, but to me the expression of a riesling with skin contact was familiar and identifiable. ( By the way, I am seriously proposing the possibility that the panel couldn't recognize native ferments either, so are we saying that only yeasted wines are allowed to pass? I'll take up this varietal maddness at another date.)
So, I ask; how can a tasting panel with a lack of tasting ability is able to comment on typicity? In other words, what do they know and how can they threaten the financial stability of one of their finest wines?
Over in South Africa, the problem is even worse. If the wine doesn't pass the board, they can't export. Done. Australia used to have the same Draconian principle in place until 2012. This is all supposed to be to protect the image of South African wine by not letting vile stuff be seen by the rest of the world. Yet the bulk, cheap and nasty supermarket side of SA wine is alive and well. Like, when is the last time you went out of your way to drink a South African wine? Enough said.
We rarely see Lammershoek in this country. Which is a damned shame as Craig Hawkins is one of South Africa's finest wine producers (at least as far as readers of this page and the TFL is concerned). But, there you go, his wines have once again been denied by the tasting panel. His latest battle, is yet agin for Sink the Pink--denied for inappropriate color.
Give me a break. I had a rosé in the Loire this year that was completely white and delicious (Patrick Corbineau's). Because of color? Since when does a rosé have to have a typical color unless it's aimed for the supermarket, or for demise, as is Provencal rosé?
This is from the winery to me. The Sink the Pink is a nouveau-style Pinotage. It is actually a small portion of our LAM Pinotage which we bottle early. This year we only bottled 560 bottles as it has a limited shelf life and needs to be consumed within 6 months or so. So very bright, fruity, relatively simple and just nice and juicy to drink young. But it doesn’t taste like any other Pinotage produced in this country and so it fails for things like being un-cultivar typical, being too light in colour.
The official language for rejection was. Turbid, hazy. Insufficient colour.
At one point perhaps this seemed like a good idea, to protect the image of South African wine, but when you think that it was just in 2004 that South Africans were putting artificial flavoring in their sauvignon blanc, and those had no trouble passing the Wine Board. But with wines that aren't pink enough?
Lammershoek has been continually going through this ordeal, and not only with Pink. Right now it's possible that they will pass the next tests, they have a few more shots at the board, but he's feeling a little beat down and not terribly optimistic.
Craig tells me there are plenty of more people in the same boat in SA, which is encouraging because then there's life there, but one wonders why they are not speaking up or working as much to help change the system. He is working for the change with the Board, the problem is that the change is not coming quickly enough. It is encouraging that as a concept of what a wine is changing and it follows that if a country isn't going to ruin their reputation, the rules must shift. And they will.
The slow pace could extinguish a winery. Craig sells near to 90% of his wines out of the country. If they don't pass the final exams, those wines will not be able to be legally shipped, causing tremendous financial hardship to one of the countries leading winemakers, ( in the natural world, at least) and the most celebrated that country has. So, what is the Wine Board really accomplishing by muzzeling the winery?
Taking it to it's illogical extreme, what if tomatoes were not allowed in stores because they were purple, or all French women who were not skinny were not allowed passports? It is time for countries, including France (and that accursed Vin de France) to realize putting a supermarket mentality on wine will bring them only disgrace.
It's time to sink, but please not the Pink.