Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Drink Local ??

There has been an evolving movement across America to "Drink Local" that has been advocated by several bloggers and wine writers for the past decade. Supporters of this movement have highlighted and advocated wine, beer, and spirits produced in local areas. For instance, wine is produced in all 50 states, whether its ChokeCherry wine in South Dakota, Elderberry wine in Kansas, Frontenac in Minnesota, Muscadine wine from the southeast or Guava wine from more tropical climates. More importantly world class wine is being produced outside of the big three (California, Oregon, and Washington) - particularly in pockets concentrating on specific varietal wines. I am referring to Riesling in New York's Finger Lakes along with Merlot from Long Island, Viognier from Virginia, and Norton from the Midwest. Other wine regions are catching up, including to the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina, the Grand Valley in Colorado, and the Texas Hill Country. Some may quibble with this list and there are probably other regions that should be included but the general point is that there is fine wine being produced throughout the United States - not just in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Currently, however, the use of the term "Drink Local" is becoming more ambiguous. I believe the term is still a general concept, where wine consumers should include wine, beer, and spirits made in all 50 states in their general beverage consumption. Yea, its not exactly drink local, but its supporting small family wineries. And as consumers and critics we shouldn't frown upon wine made from non-vinifera grapes. If a climate can only support hybrids, or labrusca, or muscadine, or berries, or tropical fruits; then so be it. Wineries should make wine from fruit that excels in that climate and as consumers we should support that concept.

Other wine writers have a slightly different definition of "Drink Local". The founders of are determined to highlight the fact that world class wine is being produced outside of the big three and how this fact is generally overlooked by the national wine media as well as in restaurants. Some refer to "Drink Local" as wine produced from grapes grown within a particular state's boundary. Others prefer to use a regional model since a winery located in one state may be closer to a vineyard located in a neighboring state as compared to vineyards located in the extreme opposite corner of that state. I've even heard the term used to define wine produced from only estate grown grapes. Obviously the use of the term has become very arbitrary and subjective and we have no problems with its multi-use. It does seem to be in the Eye of the Beholder. We do however encourage wine writers and bloggers to actually define their definition of "Drink Local" in order to not confuse their readers - particularly when one claims to "just drink local".

There is one topic that I believe consumers, bloggers, and critics would agree upon and that is the honest labeling of wine. If a winery produces a wine from grapes grown just within its own state's borders, or within an AVA, or within the winery's estate vineyard; then that fact should be clearly illustrated on the label. Furthermore, we applaud efforts by Corcoran Vineyards, Delaplane Cellars and other wineries that place the name of the local vineyard directly on the label when that wine is produced solely from vineyard designate grapes. That's how a region gains respect. On the other hand, there are many instances when a winery produces wine from out of state grapes - particularly from inexpensive California juice. This could be a long term strategy or a temporary solution for new wineries waiting for their estate grapes to mature. Regardless, the wine's label should clearly reflect the area where the grapes were sourced - whether California, the Finger Lakes, or even abroad.

Now go out and drink your definition of "local" wine.


VA Wine Diva said...

I was lurking through some of this discussion on twitter last night as I put of packing for a business trip. Interesting ideas all around, but I see drinking local as drinking from an area "near" where you live (with everyone having to define their own radius of comfort for themselves). When we drink from other east of the west coast producers it may be supporting small wineries (also important), but I think it's no longer drinking local. After all, lettuce grown on a small farm 5 states away isn't local anymore....

Kristi Davis said...

It is an interesting discussion and it could go both ways. If I'm going to drink 'Drink Local' then I definitely think that means within a certain radius of my neighborhood. As long as smaller wineries are getting more exposure, that is always a great thing.

Todd M. Godbout said...

Here's another factor. Right now, I living in West Palm Beach. How do I drink local - with no local wineries?