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06.12.2006

When Wine Labels Get Political

We all know that wine plays into politics on a regular basis, and not just in places like France where politicians are often called on to regulate wine-related matters. Direct shipping of wine has become a political football in the US, and recently Russia shoved wine to the forefront of its trade dispute with Georgia and Moldova.

The latest political news involving wine, however, has got all the others beat. On a technicality.

In a move that can only be described as bizarre, the state run liquor board in Sweden has decided that all the wine it imports from the Golan Heights will show the country of origin as "Syrian occupied territory" rather than Israel, which is what the bottles used to (and should) read. Strange, no?

Even stranger is the fact that everyone seems to be maintaining that this was a decision that blossomed within the liquor board itself, rather than through pressure from any other arm of government (which is the only way I would have imagined something like this could occur). Who knows what the Foreign Ministry means, exactly, when they say "it had no involvement in the company's final decision," but there are plenty of local politicians who are upset enough by the move to make it seem that this doesn't represent some governmental point of view, at least in aggregate.

Israeli wine producers and trade officials are, of course, furious, but there is little they can do, as the country designation is added in Sweden after the wine is imported.

I hope no one in Congress hears about this -- next time we get into a diplomatic flap with some country about the War on Terror we're likely to start seeing our wines labeled as being from "Evil-doer-istan."

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