Wine Culture & Philosophy

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America can be justifiably proud of the growth and improvement in its wine industry over the past decades, but few are aware of how large America's wine industry was before Prohibition. Although Prohibition ended in 1933 and lasted just 13 years, we are still today experiencing its negative and even devastating effects on wine production — overall volume dropped from 55 million gallons in 1919 to 3.5 million gallons in 1925. What might America's wine industry or wine culture actually be like today if Prohibition hadn't nearly destroyed it?

Read more: American Wine & Prohibition

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Does the contemporary American wine industry owe its existence to Italian immigrants and their wineries? Perhaps, at least to some extent. Americans owe a debt a gratitude to Italian immigrants for a lot of things, but one of the lesser known may be the efforts of immigrant families to preserve their vineyards and wineries during Prohibition.

When so many other wineries ripped out their vines and planted other profitable, predictable crops, a few Italian families saved their vineyards despite the political, legal, social, and economic pressures. Once Prohibition ended, these Italian wineries were ready to start providing wine to the nation. Is it any wonder that the biggest brand names in American wine have for so many years been Italian?

Read more: How Italian Wineries Saved American Wines

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Ethics & Politics of Israeli Wine from the West Bank
Wine Press Ruins in Israel from Talmudic period (100 - 400 CE)
Photo © goldberg

Israel may not be famous for its wines, but Israeli wine makers export several different type of wine and are expanding their production facilities into the West Bank lands that once belonged to Palestinians. Several Israeli vineyards already exist in the West Bank, but they have big plans for increasing the amount of land planted with grapes as well as holiday housing for tourists. As a sign of the underlying problems, the vineyards may be watched over by guard towers and well-armed guards for protection.

Choosing wine is usually a question of taste, not politics, but it's impossible to be completely apolitical when drinking Israeli wine — especially now. Perhaps no wine choice is completely free of any political implications, but they are far more significant with Israeli wine because it is increasingly being created on disputed land in Palestinian areas and all are grown with water largely denied to Palestinians who are thus denied the ability to grow food for eating.

Read more: Ethics & Politics of Israeli Wine from the West Bank

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It's common to see references to "wine culture," the culture that surrounds wine and wine drinking, but it's not so common to talk about how fundamental wine might be to human culture itself — and indeed, maybe even to human civilization. Humans have cultivated grapes and made wine for millennia and it's been argued that humans have evolved to enjoy alcohol. Maybe the decision to cultivate grapes for making wine constituted a vital turning point in human cultural evolution.

Read more: Wine and the Origins of Human Civilization

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Why Isn't Wine Considered a Work of Art?
Wine Glass in Red
Photo © Logan Cyrus

Are there good reasons why wine isn't a work of art and drinking wine isn't an aesthetic experience, or is this just prejudice — a cultural inheritance that makes no rational sense? A painting like the Mona Lisa is a work of art and viewing it is an aesthetic experience. Music, like a symphony by Mozart, is a work of art and hearing it is an aesthetic experience. Novels and poetry are works of art; reading them is an aesthetic experience. How are wine and wine drinking different?

Art, it seems, is limited to the senses of sight and sound. A great piece of clothing is only a work of art based on how it looks and only viewing it is generally regarded as an aesthetic experience. How that clothing feels on our skin is irrelevant, so our sense of touch is not regarded as a vehicle for art or aesthetic experiences. Food is "art" only by how it looks; how it tastes and smells is irrelevant because our senses of taste and smell aren't vehicles for art or aesthetic experiences. Why?

Read more: Why Isn't Wine Considered a Work of Art?

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Changing Wine Culture in France
Red Wine
Photo © .j.e.n.n.y.

In popular culture and imagination, at least, France is probably the land of wine — a land where wine culture and the wider culture are deeply intertwined. That may be changing, though, because wine consumption is in sharp decline in France. In 2008, French households drank nearly 10% less wine than they did in 2007. Some of that is because of the economy, but that's not the whole story.

 

The truth is that French culture and society have been changing for many years now. The old days when people would stop at a cafe and down a bottle of wine or more are long, long gone. Nearly 50 years ago, the average French adult drink over 4 times as much wine as the entire French household does today. Where will things be 10, 20, or 30 years from now?

Read more: Changing Wine Culture in France

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Women Drinking Wine in India
Prithika Chary; Prohibitionism in the Indian Express, 2006
Photo © technicolorcavalry

All the economic growth in India has produced a lot of social changes, just as it has in so many other countries around the world. Capitalism is closely associated with conservatism, but many fail to realize just how anti-conservative capitalism ultimately is. Capitalism thrives on novelty and relies on increased efficiencies which always overturn traditional methods of work. As a consequence, capitalism always undermines a community's traditional social mores, for better or for worse.

One of the dramatic changes occurring in India today is an increase in social freedom for women. Traditionally it was taboo for women to drink alcohol at all, much less in public, but today record numbers of women are starting to sip a glass of wine while dining out. Women themselves are becoming financially independent, thus able to make their own decisions about how they will behave and how they will live their lives.

Read more: Women Drinking Wine in India

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