Thursday, 28 January 2010

Wine is political

Last week I might have angered a few people. Well, maybe about five because that’s how many stopped following me on Twitter. What I did then was to attempt to make parallels between wine and politics, wondering why high-end wines appear to follow the line of right-wing political thought, or at least that of the economic ‘elite’.

And you've guessed it, I’m going to do it again. Because yesterday I read about the movers and shakers in Davos being served Yquem, Cheval Blanc and Krug. Well, the organisers of the tasting realised that it might be a little insensitive to hold it in Davos, so it was held at Zurich airport instead. But once again I have to ask myself what function these wines serve and what LVMH is doing hobnobbing with these people in the first place?

Is great wine – and there is no doubt that we are talking about very good wines – only deserved by the rich, the decision-makers, the ‘ruling class’ if you will?

Read into the tone of these two blogs, one from FT, the other from the New York Times. ‘It’s alright for some’ they seem to say, in that slightly piqued, slightly indignant fashion (although I suspect Gideon from the FT actually quite enjoyed it - who wouldn't).

But you have to wonder. Oh, the frolics, the enjoyment, the luxury that mere plebs cannot understand... Does everyone sit round the fire in the big Davos bunker, have a Cohiba smoke-off while a bevy of eastern European prostitutes occupy themselves on the roulette table?

Has wine become the Nero’s fiddle? Marie-Antoinette’s cake for the masses?

Perhaps you think I’m reading too much into it (and I’m beginning to bore myself, I admit) so let me leave you with Roland Barthes. He might have written it in the 50s but you’ll see my point:
It is true that wine is a good and fine substance, but it is no less true that its production is deeply involved in French capitalism, whether it is that of the private distillers or that of the big settlers in Algeria who impose on the Muslims, on the very land of which they have been dispossessed, a crop of which they have no need, while they lack even bread. There are thus very engaging myths which are however not innocent. And the characteristic of our current alienation is precisely that wine cannot be an unalloyedly blissful substance, except if we wrongfully forget that it is also the product of an expropriation.

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