This last decade in wine has been one of polarization – two trains speeding down the rails with different destinations in mind. The world of branded image-driven corporate wine got bigger. The top brands consolidated their stranglehold at the distribution and retail level. Mega corporations with thousands of employees pressed and sold billions of gallons of wine. Deeply discounted, and priced to equal the quality, they succeeded in taming what was once a Wild West show of growers and distributors. Like the formally fragmented radio industry, they consolidated into a Top 40 format that produced the same soulless sound from Maine to Oregon. Internationally, as well, corporate wine made inroads against the marketing-challenged small producer.
We’ve seen a world standardization of taste profiles, like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, become uniform from Chile to Australia. Globalization has meant uniformity; less surprise, more predictability. The Lifetime Achievement and Man of the Year awards given out by the leading wine magazines tell the story. They reward the successful corporate consolidator, the man who now has 40 brands and a 50% market share in his portfolio. These magazines feature the pesticide polluter, the industrial farmer and those indifferent to the earth and farm workers. It is all about efficiency and success measured in cases and cash. You can see their photos in black tie at all the big hotel galas – the big wine press rewarding its enablers.
In a revolt born of disgust and sorrow, the Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wine movement has risen to challenge these practices. Starting with the farmers themselves, they have chosen to grow grapes without poisoning the earth. A few more have chosen to ferment and blend and bottle without adding false ingredients and flavors. And a few more have decided to make a business out of this and distribute these wines to the world.
The world of real wine has not yet tipped, but the next decade may see that happen. As the world of food and wine continues to receive scrutiny that exposes its toxic downside, you can be sure more and more wine drinkers will want to know what is in their glass; how it was grown, how it was made. The rate of conversation to healthy farming is astonishing. It is the thing to do in New Zealand and Sonoma, in the Loire and Lebanon. Wine has always been an artisinal product. It should not be hard for it to return to its roots.
For the next decade I raise a glass to the continued success of everyone in the real wine world; the farmers, wine makers, distributors wine shops, wine bars and restaurants. You are all part of an organic chain, a process that is developing and growing alongside the artisanal food movement. Yet it’s all in the drinking and there too, the real wine world has succeeded, most of its wine is simply delicious. Thanks again.
There are also many people to thank for their help at Organic Wine Journal. All our writers, contributors and photographers. Those that have helped promote and publicize OWJ and those that have supported us with advertising. It is still a complete labor of love. As the decade is almost decanted, it’s time to peer into the sediment and see what is left to be poured into the next decade. We want to thank our readers who have spent the last few years believing that wine should heal, not harm, the planet.