Sunday, June 24, 2012

So lift your Glass and Raise it High: Wine Saves the Day

the Beauty of the Days to Come: an environmental homage to Van Morrison's appreciation of beauty

The last month's posts looked at rating systems, specifically, the apex raters of sustainable seafood. In 2012 we are all influenced, either directly or indirectly, by rating systems. Rating schemes, whether of fine wines or the raters themselves, are  designed to drive change by either persuading consumers to buy a particular product or persuading producers to engage in a specific process, in this case, ecologically advisable practices. Raters embody cultural values,  but sometimes, raters can be pioneers who lead and change cultural directions. Raters of ecological practices tend to be pioneers of change.

All rating systems have emerged from complex systems as ways of dealing with complexity. Expertise in a specialization is highly valued and well rewarded. Raters are also experts in their domains; they save all others huge amounts of time and energy by first, allowing consumers to choose a rater with persuasive credentials and values compliant with his or her own's,  then allowing consumers to rely, over future time, on their judgments (saving time and energy). Raters simplify decision-making/life.  Raters are rewarded.

Rewardinthecognitveniche (RCN)  strives to make ecological decision-making for top-quality products in complex systems as pleasurable and rewarding as conceivably possible for all individuals of all species. Key concepts are decision-making, quality, pleasure, ecology, and complexity. RCN is a rater of diverse continuous practices, from choosing seafood for dinner to throwing away an empty wine bottle.

In 2012, no one is rating consumers  for their environmental choices, yet these choices will radically affect quality of both wines and consumer life in the days to come. We rate producers.  But whatever is not consumed sooner or later will fail to be produced. This is the premier law of free markets. Over time, if only briefly, demand will equal supply.

Free markets only indirectly, if at all,  reflect quality of life. Markets tend to reflect economics, typically efficiency in production and distribution, sometimes ethics, sometimes environmental issues, and rarely and only in a narrow demographics, quality of life.That said, quality of life will be judged by standards established, now and in the days gone by, by the best of the best.

"The beauty of the days gone by
The music that we used to play
So lift your glass and raise it high
To the beauty of the days gone by

I'll sing it from the mountain top
Down to the valley down below
Because my cup doth overflow
With the beauty of the days gone by." 
Van Morrison

Who decides what is best?

Best imaginable quality of life, aka the sweet life, can be reconceptualized as beauty experienced. While each person might conceptualize, define, and experience beauty differently, for each, beauty is what emerges from a  network of "the best elements linked in the best ways for the best outcomes according to the best judgments." (Netoff, 2001). In 2012, best is highly influenced by the judgments of experts in an almost infinite variety of domains. 

Sometimes new judgments of what is best pioneer preferences for good better and best worldwide for a long long time.  More is better has been a top value for hundreds of years, but not always. Stronger, faster, and smarter, also have dominated cultures as top values for many if not most generations.

Experts are the go-to judges of our times. In simple systems, we are best off by thinking for ourselves and acting on considerations made--given simple systems, inputs, outputs, and values. Generally, nothing is now simple. We are required to depend on experts, for brain surgery, seafood choices for dinner, and wine to drink.

Standards for quality are created by experiences of the best of the best in days gone by. We are biologically programmed to re-evaluate best as something that happened both during the lifetimes of our parents, meaning the best of the past is considered but not precisely remembered and is a phenomenon best re-interpreted as the best experience of quality in our lifetimes, everything considered.

The last post suggested that a model of how the highest conceivable-but-attainable quality of life might be preserved could be effectively embodied in the experience of making and drinking wine rated the best in the world of its kind. Local high-end winemakers were identified as the 2012 noblesse obligated to lead the way to highest possible quality of life for all.

Wine producers of wines rated 90 or above can lead the way

Wine production is not considered a top environmental polluter. For that reason, as well as a lingering value established by specialization during early free-market days justifying "doing one's own thing", wine-producers tends to focus on quality, terroir and economics more than environment. Terroir is not environment. Terroir is creative explication, while environment is commitment to aesthetically ecolving ecosystems.

What is unique here is that I am suggesting that winemakers of top quality products have an obligation-that- mirrors-their-privileges to lead the way to a top quality future by doing the right thing by the global ecosystem. In 2012 Central Coast winemakers aka producers can establish precedents for how producerss can share stewardship with consumers: reporting ecological practices online. The winemakers listed below have a noblesse obligation to report online their ecological performances in a way that both allows consumers to decide who is ecologically sound but also, who is a leader.

File:Les Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry avril detail.jpg
Les Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry avril detail.jpg

Noblesse Oblige

In the past, the nobility was classified as a social class distinguished by high hereditary or honorary rank that possesses privileges, or eminence, and certain rights not granted to members of other classes in a society. Membership in this elite group has been, over historical times, an open order. Who is and who is not noble changes. What does not change is the idea that the noble/elite have not only privileges and power but also responsibilities.

 In the case of local Santa Barbara winemakers, those who produce wines rated by world-class experts as 95 or above (or the equivalent rating) are considered prestigious and probably powerful, wealth aside. These winemakers are influential in our local wine community and beyond. Conceivably, these winemakers can be conceptualized as the modern-day equivalent of middle-age nobility, who had privileges but also responsibilities. Designated contemporary nobility include:

A brand-new responsibility for noblesse is that of the global environment and its populations. Winemaking is for me among the most rewarding activities imaginable.  Agriculture can be seen as the defining activity of civilized Homo sapiens, and wine making as the pinnacle of agricultural activity. Those that produce the best of the best can be seen as the best, aka, the noblesse. Although this may be arguable, I feel strongly that producers of the highest possible quality of wine have both that privilege but also the responsibilities that I enumerate as follows:

  • the responsibility to produce the best wine possible, given climate, terroir, wine-making skills, etc.
  • the responsibility to be not only communicatively transparent but further,to report to the global consumer sufficient information to make informed decisions, once quality has been determined, regarding which product has been produced according to the most ecological process, given the state of science.

In 2012, any attempt to report best ecological process must undertake some kind of life cycle analysis (LCA).The next post explains what this is and indicates the gold standards for 2012. The main purpose of this post was to present the argument that Central Coast Wine producers of top quality wines have a responsibility to share stewardship responsibilities by reporting online  their ecological activities using 
comprehensive data that are comparable worldwide and/or reliableindicators of ecological excellence such as ISO certifications.

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