Wine Beliebers – Friday Ramble

7 Apr

Yes, it’s kinda sad really

I read an interesting piece at about Justin Bieber’s new dreadlocks. You can read it here. It was about the non-entitled appropriation of the culture of others. The others, in this case, being the owners of the dreadlock franchise, I guess. Dreadlocks R Us? Marleyville? Reggae-A-Rama?

My first response to any complaint about Justin, a lad from just up the road in Stratford, is that The Biebs is a young, spoiled brat and that whatever he has done is most likely wrong. But on this point, we need to ask, “Do dreadlocks constitute cultural property? If so, who owns the right to that property? Is it proper for others without that particular cultural passport to wear them?”

Now you didn’t think I was going to answer those questions here, did you? It’s a wine blog. Instead I want to discuss the cultural appropriation that has been and is still occurring in wine and whether, just like The Biebs, it might be culturally insensitive and just plain wrong

Here’s the thing:

When I started to appreciate wine in the early 70’s it was all about Europe. European wine had many identities and all were über sophisticated for a young lad. My earliest fine wine memories?

Monsieur Corndog

Monsieur Corndog

A lunch with a former high school teacher and her husband in Ottawa. They introduced me to white Bordeaux – Château SomethingOrOther. Really – Château avec l’accent circumflex? That had to be good shit, right? And then there was my first year room mate – a grad school Vietnam War deserter and Westchester County trust fund baby – providing me instruction on the proper wine to pair with corn dogs from the cafeteria vending machine. The wine was red and from the Dordogne, wherever the hell that was. Corn Dog Pairing Tip: Grainy Dijon mustard, preferably Maille, is the key to pairing this delectable snack with an earthy, rustic red.

Back then, it was all Europe with the rest of the world trying to catch up. But, then something happened. A serious wine culture developed in North America, at first primarily in California. And it was specific to that place. We all know about the Paris thing in the 70’s. That’s where the wine world was gobsmacked by the upstart Yanks………….yada, yada……….vous plaisantez j’espère?

Jump ahead in wine evolution to the 80’s and early 90’s and the proliferation of wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Mendocino, etc. and the style of those wines at that time (and please don’t shoot me on these broad generalizations) – Chardonnays were big, buttery and heavily oaked; red wines were big, hot, fruity, and heavily oaked as well. And, they sold buckets and buckets of these wines – many priced in the relative stratosphere – to critical acclaim from the US wine intelligentsia – read: Parker. The UK wine establishment? Not so enthusiastic about them. But, the world’s biggest economy and the largest opportunity to grow wine sales had voted. It loved these big brawny beasts.

What were Messieurs Arrogant Frog and Fat Bastard to do? Wait, I kind of gave it away there didn’t I? I’ll try again.

arfrogWhat were Messieurs Petit Clos and Domaine de Coûteux to do? Well, they along with their UK wine writing co-conspirators railed against the sacrilege of making such inappropriate wines. They lost market share. They didn’t change. They lost some more market share. And then, they decided that big and fruit forward (high scoring wines) was their thing too. Oh, they didn’t go all in. But, on balance, they did change it up. And, here’s where I connect The Biebs. You were waiting for that weren’t you?

Doesn’t that make them culture appropriators, if that’s a proper noun? They did it publicly and not even begrudgingly. Even the Italians, to a lesser extent, decided to trend towards (and I’m using the Euro euphemism here) an ‘international’ style in their cuvées.

So, is that the end of it? All wine trending toward metaphorical dreadlocks. Screaming Eagles everywhere? Of course not. Nothing is consistent but change.

What’s happened? Well, Washington State, California, Prince Edward County, Niagara, and the rest of the New World over the past decade or so, seem to be looking to a more terroir-driven style. Wait, that sounds like what the Euros were doing before they got knocked off their game – making wines that spoke of place. Even the word ‘terroir’ is French for crying out loud. Now, who’s appropriating who?

To quote The Armchair Sommelier, “Le Sigh.”

So, before the moaning resumes about The Biebs and Kim K. rocking the dreadlocks, let us first support our neighbours to the south and boycott European wines. After all, they stole the equivalent of the wine cultural capital of California. Il sont les imposteurs. And, while we’re at it, since the New World is now seemingly appropriating the cultural property of the European wine establishment – terroir, maybe we need to boycott New World wines too. And what about the new wines coming from China? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge – ya think they might be knock offs? Duh.

banwineWhat did I just say? Boycott all wine? All that tasty yummy wine? ………Well, maaaaaaybe there’s another way to make our point on cultural appropriation that doesn’t cost me so much pain. Boycott The Biebs and other non-wine cultural appropriators! Yes, BOYCOTT THE BIEBS! BOYCOTT THAT WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM! Our point will then be sufficiently made. Right?

Cheers. Have a great weekend!





4 Responses to “Wine Beliebers – Friday Ramble”

  1. Michelle Williams April 8, 2016 at 4:00 am #

    Ironically I’m reading this in CDG airport in Paris after a great week in Bordeaux; hhhmm…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Duff's Wines April 8, 2016 at 8:39 am #

      Ah, CDG – the airport of continual and inadequate construction. Have a small box of Dordogne red for me. Thanks for reading and participating Michelle. Hope the en primeur trip was cool.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. talkavino April 8, 2016 at 7:09 am #

    Great post (rant) Bill. Yep, we clearly need to boycott something for the world to become a better place. As it is 7 am in the morning here, I’ll boycott all the wine for the next 5 hours. Just to show it who is the boss. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan Jory Spindler April 8, 2016 at 7:50 am #

    Good on ‘ya Bill! Sent using my always politically correct and pitch-perfect sensibility having white girl fingers.

    SUSAN JORY INTERIORS 81 Wilson Avenue London, Ontario N6H 1X5 519-871-5849


    Liked by 1 person

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