War of the Worlds

by Keith Stewart / 25 December, 2004
Rural artisan winemakers are battling industrialist producers in a bid to preserve the magical results of husbandry and handcraft.

The wine world is in the middle of a war between industrialists and artisans. One is fighting for market domination, the other for freedom of expression and economic security. On one hand, the technology and rationalism of corporate culture; on the other, the romance of individualism.

Industrialist wine producers claim to be making the drink of democracy, wine of a quality that was once exclusive to the aristocracy but is now available in every supermarket at prices everyone can afford. It is a slick and persuasive argument, except that the modern aristocracy, those metropolitan princes who occupy corporate glass towers are not often seen drinking the cheap chardonnays and bubblies of supermarket shelves.

These are wines that the modern global wine trade likes to claim are the best ever, true to their grape variety source and free from fault, thanks to industrial technology. If you drink these wines, there is little chance that you will be disappointed, and even less chance that you will be excited. Which is why contemporary aristocrats continue to prefer wines made in the higher risk environment of husbandry and handcraft, and why they pay significantly more to do so.

There is, of course, the question of cost, for industrial wine is cheaper to produce than handmade wine. But this is to ignore the cost of environmental degradation, which is never included in retail prices, but instead comes in your tax bill. The cost of industrial farming, of any sort, is a steady degradation of the land that supports us. We can see it in Rotorua's steadily festering lakes and in the contamination of soil and waterways with spray residues.

Of equal concern is the way that industrial farming has shifted control of the land away from rural communities, and the current war between industrialists and rural artisans is a struggle for self-determination by rural communities against the prevailing metropolitan hegemony: corporates against local identity. Although GE technologies are the headline hoggers of this battle, wine is the real front line.

Wine is the emblem of rural identity, nurtured as it is in a specific place by a specific culture. Its greatest example is champagne, which is why industrialist wine producers and their national supporters, such as the US Government, are determined to challenge its integrity.

Champagne is more than a famous wine, it is the symbol of both the Champagne district and France as a whole. Superficially, its production is industrial in aspect, but the underlying truth is its fierce regionalism and immense parochial pride. And its lesson for rural communities everywhere is the vigorous regional economy that its pride and integrity support - simply the richest agricultural community on Earth.

Latest

Give Kate A Voice: Bringing Kate Sheppard's speeches to life
96352 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z History

Give Kate A Voice: Bringing Kate Sheppard's speech…

by Noted

Famous Kiwi women read the powerful words of Kate Sheppard, who fought for the right for women to vote.

Read more
Ladies in Black – movie review
96686 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Ladies in Black – movie review

by Russell Baillie

This nicely nostalgic female coming-of-age tale set in a Sydney department store almost sings.

Read more
A Southern man goes for gold in Garston growing hops
95518 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Small business

A Southern man goes for gold in Garston growing ho…

by Mike White

Nelson and Motueka are well known for their hops but Garston hops are starting to be noticed by brewers.

Read more
How to lower your exposure to potentially toxic household products
96525 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Health

How to lower your exposure to potentially toxic ho…

by Nicky Pellegrino

Alexx Stuart advocates changing one thing a week. With personal-care items, she says the place to start is body lotion.

Read more
The unrest in Chemnitz is a sign that Germany has a populist problem too
96655 2018-09-23 00:00:00Z World

The unrest in Chemnitz is a sign that Germany has …

by Cathrin Schaer

The populist contagion sweeping Europe spreads to Germany, Cathrin Schaer writes from Berlin.

Read more
The alarming new evidence about chemicals and plastics we use at home
96233 2018-09-23 00:00:00Z Science

The alarming new evidence about chemicals and plas…

by Nicky Pellegrino

From sperm counts to obesity, scientists are only beginning to understand the long-term health effects of many chemicals in everyday use.

Read more
Why preservative-free cosmetics are a tough commercial product
96522 2018-09-23 00:00:00Z Health

Why preservative-free cosmetics are a tough commer…

by Nicky Pellegrino

Preservative-free cosmetics that survive in your bathroom cupboard are a challenge, says Evolu founder Kati Kasza.

Read more
The arguments for and against allowing medicinal use of cannabis
96641 2018-09-23 00:00:00Z Psychology

The arguments for and against allowing medicinal u…

by Marc Wilson

There’s an increasing amount of evidence on cannabis effects, but it's far from straightforward.

Read more