It’s time to apply the idea of “traceability” to wine
The 100-mile diet, the popularity and proliferation of farmers’ markets, and seemingly every independent and chain restaurant touting menus comprised of locally-sourced, sustainably-farmed ingredients all point to a greater concern and interest in the food we are consuming. Remarkably, as more and more people are concerned with the traceability of their food, that concern doesn’t seem to apply to the wines they drink.
How can someone shop at the farmers’ market because they want to know where their food is from, but then stop at the liquor store and buy a bottle of some generic, sugar-laden bulk wine that’s been manufactured like soda pop? How can restaurants and hotels promote food menus supporting local, sustainable producers, using vegetables and herbs grown in their organic gardens and honey harvested from their own beehives, yet possess wine lists filled with mass-produced, commoditized wines that have no traceable origin or sense of place?
How do you know where your wine comes from? In some cases, you can tell just by picking up the bottle. Azienda Agricola on the label of an Italian wine, Weingut on a German label, and Chateau or Domaine on a French label, for example, refer to vineyard estates, meaning the grapes used to make the wine must come entirely from vineyards owned by the producer.
“Estate grown” or single vineyard designations provide traceability for New World wines. On the Finca Decero labels from Argentina, for example, it clearly states “Remolinos Vineyard” and “Grown-Made-Bottled at Finca Decero — Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina.”
But how can you tell, if you don’t know and it’s not clear on the label? You ask someone that does know. It seems that people are much more comfortable asking about their food’s origins than they are asking about the wines they drink. Take the opportunity to start a conversation with your local wine shop staff or restauranteur.
It’s important that we support quality wine producers whose philosophies and practices of traceability and sense of place align with the food producers we support.
In general, I believe you will find that these wines taste better, are more interesting, better reflect the grape varieties, styles and vineyard sites of their origins, provide better value and are healthier for body, mind and soul.