Wine and politics

Yesterday I ran across an interview with Tyler Colman, a.k.a. Dr. Vino. He discussed his book Wine Politics, subtitled How Governments, Environmentalists and Mobsters Influence the Wines We Drink. The book grew out of Colman’s PhD thesis in political economy.

One of the things I found interesting in the interview was his comparison of regulation in the US and Europe. The common perception is that Europe is more heavily regulated than the US. At least with respect to wine, that’s not entirely true. Wine production is more heavily regulated in Europe, but wine distribution is more heavily regulated in the US. Here’s a quote to that effect from the interview.

It’s easier to ship a bottle of wine from Bordeaux to Berlin than it is from Napa to Nashville.

I was surprised how difficult it can be to ship wine within the US. On the other hand, the US places practically no restrictions on how wine is produced. In Europe, especially in France, wine production is incredibly regulated.

When I was in Bordeaux a couple years ago I had a chance to meet a vintner who produces a “garage wine.” He explained that, for example, government regulations only allow you to make wine from grapes grown on your own property; you cannot swap a bushel of grapes with a neighboring vineyard. He complained that restrictions on irrigation make it hard to compete with foreign wineries that do not face such restrictions.

See also Wine, Beer, and Statistics.

3 thoughts on “Wine and politics

  1. In Indiana there are some pretty heavy statutes like a distributor can’t advertise within 200 yards of a biergarten. (In practice that means no bus signs either, since they might pass within 200 yards of a prohibited area.)

    Indiana wine also has an interesting story in that a law professor from Indiana University advised the state legislature in crafting Indiana wine laws, then he proceeded to set up his own winery (Oliver Winery) which is still a major player in Indiana wine today (several decades later). It’s currently possible to buy wine OTC or on wine tours on Sundays in Indiana whereas other alcohols can’t be sold in stores starting at 12:01 am Sunday morning.

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