In Vino Veritas? By Ken Maitland
No doubt most of you are by now tired of reading about politics and are currently either celebrating success, drowning sorrows or, like me, soberly wondering what on earth the election result might mean for our food and drink industries.
But I cannot help but be aware there are many political aspects to wine: for example, cooperatives play a very large role, responsible for between a quarter and a third of global wine production, and much more where they are pivotal, such as Europe and South America.
At one time, a third of even California’s wines came from co-ops, founded to help small producers survive in harsh economic climates. The huge multi-national concerns churning out identikit wine made on an industrial scale now seem to have overtaken them, at least in the USA.
In the UK, the Wine Society is a respected supplier and considered to be pretty up-market – it’s the source of many of the wines used in the Essential Wine School’s tastings and courses. Many people are surprised when they find out the Society is a mutual, founded in 1874, and is owned by its customers with no dividends paid out but all profits reinvested in the business.
Surely the greatest impact that wine has ever had on the modern world came in 1842, when a youthful Karl Marx, then a student of philosophy and budding journalist, took up the cause of winegrowers in the Mosel valley in Germany, who were suffering greatly under the Prussian taxation system of the time.
This local wine trade crisis inspired him to study the economics involved and the relationship to politics, and, according to his associate Engels, this inevitably led him to socialism and in turn the creation of the political philosophy now known as Marxism. As he said, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it”.
There are undoubtedly plenty of reasons why many people are not offended to be called Champagne socialists or even Bollinger Bolsheviks! My personal favourite quote from Marx is: “a man who does not love wine will never achieve anything good for mankind”.
However, if politically neutral enjoyment and learning about wine is more of interest, the Essential Wine School is holding a Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award in Wine in the superb surroundings of the Chapel Down vineyard’s Wine Sanctuary – a custom tasting and learning facility overlooking their vineyard – starting on 19th June for three Mondays.
Participants learn about the major wines of the world, professional tasting techniques and quality evaluation. This is achieved through tasting 45 wines and a decent lunch, with the opportunity to obtain a recognised vocational qualification.
See www.essentialwineschool.com for full details or call 01424 490390. Free transport is available from Hastings.