In times of political campaigns, politics can seep into just about any part of life. It may even get into your wine.
For at least one Chilean wine producer, as I found out on Twitter, thanks to wine educator Bruce Cass, the ricochet from recent political events is rather stupefying. The name of the wine? Palin Syrah, a reasonably-priced organic wine made by renowned winemaker Alvaro Espinosa for GeoWines. The association with the one and only republican vice-presidential candidate is apparently causing people to walk away from it in San Francisco, while Texans are buying it with extra enthusiasm in Houston.
As a quick Google search will tell you, the story has raised eyebrows all the way to Chile and Argentina, with winemaker Espinosa vowing to send the Alaskan Governor several cases of his wines, even as he pointed out that, ironically, this situation is driving away a democrat, liberal clientele that is, generally speaking, much more open and interested in organic wines (see the article here, in Spanish). Espinosa quipped that he might have to rename it “Vino de la Casa Blanca”, if the Republicans win. Palin sounds fine to me.
(The word “Palin”, if you’re wondering, comes from the Mapuche language, a native people from the southern tip of Chile and Argentina. Definitely not from anything Alaskan.)
The whole Palin Syrah thing is certainly one notch above the rather gratuitous Lipstick on a Pig wines produced by Convivium Brands, a maker of private label bottlings based in Long Island City, NY. Based on an Obama remark interpreted as a Palin insult by her supporters, it leaves me with a rather bland, if slightly bitter aftertaste. And the design isn’t much to talk about. A novelty store joke, really. I’d rather buy some Vintage Papi; at least, it’s for charity.
Yet you can turn an electoral race into a smart pretext for wine tasting. Andrew J. Stover, sommelier for Oya restaurant in Washington, DC, has created a race to the Wine House using a series of wines from Red states, Blue states and battleground states, showcasing regional wines from Arizona, Illinois, Idaho, Michigan and Virginia, among others. In a newspaper article, Stover reported having had to taste a lot of crappy wine to put that selection together. We applaud his courage – and his willingness to bring wines from less heralded wine regions to light.
Here, in Canada, we’re just not that witty about wine and politics. I haven’t found a wine list pitting wines from the rather conservative BC interior against ice ciders from more liberal areas of Quebec – yet. Instead, there’s The Globe and Mail’s Beppi Crosariol trying to turn the totally restrictive interprovincial wine shipping laws (summary: it’s illegal to ship anything out of your province to another province) into an election issue. More on that later.