Borderless.

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Last year I had a group of “Lady Bosses” who met monthly for a themed wine tasting. As people grew busy, moved away, lost interest, whatever, the group fell by the wayside. But, very importantly, it was in this group that I first met some incredible ladies who have henceforth become very dear friends as well as sources of encouragement, wisdom and inspiration.

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So in the late stages of summer, with nothing but time and MW test results still on the horizon (less than one week now!!!!), we tried for a reprise. This time it took the form of a symposium, with an all women panel, and a theme of “Borderless Wine.”

“Borderless Wine is a movement of possibility…a challenge and a promise to craft a new global wine route, find exhilaration in lesser known regions and grapes, all while highlighting that wine’s privilege can be leveraged to make a difference in the world.”

I’m not totally clear on what wine’s privilege is, but I like the general sentiment here, even if not wholly flushed out in the seminar. The message came across more about cheering for the underdog just because it’s different, rather for any substantive reason. But this was the first event and the early stages of development for founder Peter Weltmn, so growing pains are sure to be felt.

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With that said, Lisa Granik MW gave a wonderful key note presentation about how the wine industry in Georgia is evolving away from Russian dependence (because it had to), and is creating jobs and independence for those left behind by urbanization, specifically women. She also highlighted the diversity of people we come into contact within the scope of this all encompassing business; from farmers, to priests, to billionaires, wine is knocking down borders, rejoice!  This brought my thoughts to a wonderfully poignant article (“The Illuminati of the Bottle” Noble Rot Issue 17) to exactly this point of the geopolitical and social implications of wine. Andrew Jefford simply raises the questions that this seminar only slightly began to address, but which truly are the crux of borderless wine.

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How do we feel about drinking a glass of Tokaji shortly after Hungary’s immigrant-loathing prime minister wines a third term in office based on an anti-Semitic election campaign?

Wine loves China, and China loves wine – but its people can’t say what they think, or vote for whom they wish

…what will Ramaphosa do about land reform in South Africa?

His point is about broadening the appeal of wine out of geekdom, but it gets one thinking. Is borderless wine even a good thing? Weren’t borders drawn in the first place for a reason? To protect quality, to have a hard and fast line about what comes from where and how. If these lines are blurred, as they so often are with bulk shipping and flying winemakers, how can we ensure the products we are choosing are in fact even what we think they are?

Yes, let’s celebrate a village/region/country through their individuality and specific competencies in wine. But let’s also ensure there’s something worth celebrating. Quality is paramount for wider engagement of experts and novices alike. So let’s knock down borders, but let’s do it with knowledge and aplomb, not just rhetoric of “lesser known.”

A good time was had by all, especially as we cleansed our minds and palates with some Marie Ledru Champagne. Some borders are worth protecting….

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