Sunday, October 23, 2011

An America Without Italian Wine

From the "nothing to kill or die for" dept.

Let’s take a imaginary scenario – trade between Italy and the USA is halted for economic and security reasons. No more Italian wine comes to America, ever again. What would this mean to Italians in the vineyards? To Americans in Kankakee?

Assuming we had no choice, let’s say the distribution of wealth had been arranged so that the bottom 80% of the population held 15% of the wealth and the top 20% of the population held 85% of the wealth. And about that time someone got the idea that to trade with Italy would cause further economic imbalance and would jeopardize the peace in the world.

And so, just like that, bye-bye Barolo and Brunello. Adios Amarone. Ciao, Chianti. Hasta la vista, Vernaccia. Who would suffer more, Italy? Or Americans?

I would imagine in America, Italian varieties would take off. Sangiovese from the Texas Plains might, all of a sudden, become more valued. Vermentino from Lodi might be more popular. Pinot Grigio and Moscato wouldn’t miss a beat, as California winemakers have saturated the marker with their versions for some time now.

So what would the downside be?

I’ve been thinking about it for a while and have come to realize that we are in a world where events taking place do so with such rapidity, that the human, wired for another time, will just not be able to fathom the change and will accept rather painlessly. And while there might be all manner of personal tragedies unfolding, both in Italy and in America, I somehow think it wouldn’t be as bad as people might think.

Take Italian restaurants- They would adapt the quickest. Many restaurateurs look for the simplest way to get products on their table. They’ve been doing it for years substituting Californian, Oregon, Australian and Argentine for Italian wines. Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Shiraz, they’ve come to take a larger command of the Italian wine list.

Italian wine importers have been branching out too, looking to South America, Austria, Spain, Chile, even Japan for other products. They would be very flexible.

Retailers might be different. While the large stores have been generally sourcing their own private labels to a larger degree, why would it be so difficult to design an Italian looking label and then slap it on any wine that came across their path or suited their fancy? It has also been happening for some time; this scenario would merely quicken the pace at which many of these large entities have been working towards.

And shoppers and diners, would they miss a Vino Nobile all that much? I think that the trauma of having to speak a foreign word having been removed, they might be even less inhibited to order a wine from the list now. Or go into a store and not feel foolish because they didn’t know where the country was or how to pronounce “Soave” correctly. It could be a boon to the wine industry; folks freed up might be even more motivated to drink a little more for their country and the national pride.

What about back in old Napoli? Or under the Tuscan Sun? I wonder how blu that pinto would be? I’m just wondering? Anyone out there have any thoughts? Would it be the end of the world? Or would the world keep turning?


Anonymous said...

Interesting thought experiment, AC.

To answer the last of your questions, I think the effect on the Italian winemakers, and the chain of people who work with them, would be devastating. As more than one small producer has told me, "We can't live on what the Italian market buys. We need to export, and the United States is our biggest market." Maybe not the source of the fattest profits, but essential for cash-flow anyway. And if you can make it here...


Roy Schneider said...

It would be a sad day for those of us who developed a love for Italian Wines, but the biggest effect would be on the small growers and wineries of Italy.

The large operators will find other markets (ie. China, Japan, Europe).

Roy Schneider said...

It would be a sad day for those of us who have developed a love for the wines of Italy, it would be a devastation to the small producers though.

The large producers would ultimately find other markets in Asia and Europe, but the small producers (and American Consumers) would end up the ultimate losers.

Do Bianchi said...

don't even speak it, Ace! Gives me the heebie jeebies!

Samantha Dugan said...

Gotta agree with Roy....and Jeremy on this one. Kinda bummed me out man.

Meg O'Keefe said...

If that happened, I would likely have to move to Italy. Immediately.

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