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08.19.2006

THIS is Wine Globalization

In case anyone was still on the fence about this whole globalization phenomena, the latest news from Germany should be enough to convert even those few who might still be clinging to the notion that it's not all just one big global economy. The famed Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany, home to some of the country's best wines, is about to have its name changed to make its wines more "accessible" to consumers.

In case it's not perfectly clear, those consumers AREN'T the Germans.

No, the Germans don't seem to have issues pronouncing the names of places like Gimmeldinger Mandelgarten that often appear on German wine labels along with several other multi-syllabic terms. It's us Americans (and many other global consumers) that get tongue tied, intimidated, and confused by wines that seem to have names that include more than ten words.

So who cares about the folks who can't even pronounce Grüner Veltliner properly?

Apparently the winegrowers of the Mosel do, which is why they're lobbying the German government fairly hard to change the name of the region (or at least the regulations for what must be put on wine labels) to simply, Mosel.

I couldn't have imagined a more perfect example of the inextricable interconnectedness of global commerce these days, especially in the wine industry. And how beautifully it walks the razor's edge of both good and bad aspects of the phenomenon.

Critics of globalization might look at this latest development as a depressing sign of the dumbing-down and homogenization of culture: can you believe that some country is forced to change a centuries old name for a wine region just to sell wine to the world? Those more comfortable with the phenomenon might point out how it's actually the winegrowers themselves that are responding to what they see as an opportunity to sell more of their wine to a broader population than ever before.

It's very interesting to me that the German government seems much more amenable to this move than the French would be. Apparently it took some lobbying, for some time, on the part of the growers to get this change through, but it's fairly major compared to the abortive efforts that have been attempted many times in France to simply get varietal names onto bottles. That's not changing the name of Saint Emilion, mind you, that's just adding the little words "Cabernet Sauvignon" somewhere on the front of the label. Perhaps the French can learn some lessons from their Eastern neighbor to assist with their current troubles.

I'd like to go on the record as applauding this move by the Germans. I think there is little "cultural value" to be lost in such a move as this (the road maps will still read what they have always read). How much there is to be gained in intelligibility for the global consumer remains to be seen. Even with the shortened name "Mosel Leiwener Klostergarten Riesling Kabinett" is still a bit of a mouthful. But a tasty one to be sure.

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