Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bested!  Is the World's Fine-Wine Community Above & Beyond Morality?

World's Highest Priced Wine:? The Cricova winery collection from Moldova, with the two largest wine cellars in the world ( Milestii Mici is the largest), contains a Jewish desert wine produced in Jerusalem in 1902. According to rumor, $1,000,000 was offered for this wine. Cricova is  known for hiding Jews in wine barrels during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.  Clearly, such value is not just a function of the usual sensory attributes of taste and tannins and arguably, the most expensive may not be the best. Even the best may no longer be the best.


The fine-wine community produces, evaluates, appreciates, and consumes the world's best wines, according to criteria of excellence evolved over evolutionary time. These criteria need radical reframing for the non-evolutionary conditions we confront in 2015. 

Evolution moves slowly, weeding out the less fit and promoting the genes of the more fit. When global conditions change more rapidly than Evolution can keep up with, humans need to use their brains to re-evaluate what's working and what's not.

Morality and ethics deal with values and judgments of behavior: good, bad, indifferent, and everything in-between. Because values vary by individual, group, context, place,  time, and events, judgments of what is good or bad vary accordingly. For any one individual or group, judgments of good or bad may emerge from competing values, profound conflicts of interests, and major compromises. As a rule, if it works, it's good--albeit whether just good enough or really good. Often, alternatives are considered in the assessment of what is good enough and what works may embody difficult compromises.

Quality Reconceptualized  to include Ecology

In the past, wines have been rated by wine experts according to mostly sensory values, such as taste color and body,  fidelity to varietal, uniqueness, tannins, color, body, complexity, etc. Rating by experts  for the world's best wines range from 90 to 100 and are considered the best wines available, regardless of cost. or other considerations.

As a rule, fine wines are chosen by individual consumers according to the historical quality of the winery's wines (e.g., on their waitlist,  tastings events, or online newsletters); from reports by their preferred raters; often from local distributors, and more randomly from various critiques from raters and consumers to be found on the Internet. Price is a factor for most but frequently, not the deciding factor in final choices. Environmental profiles have tended to have negative price value.

A few fine-wine producers report on their environmental management practices but in general, the better the wine, the less likely there is for here to be substantial information using metrics-based data for the winery's environmental practices. Noblesse Oblige is an ethic that still belongs to those who produce and enjoy the best: with privilege comes responsibility. Unlike the stewardship of medieval times, when the obligation was to take care of one's land and inhabitants, the obligation of producers today is to help consumers world-wide develop life-cycle thinking. You can share the fish you catch or you can teach others how to fish.

Stewardship is the concept and Best Management  refers to the set of practices promoted in this website. Stewardship shared by producers and consumers is our framework.While not everyone can be classified as a producer, no one is exempt from consuming. The logical conclusion is that the most important category of individuals for preserving vibrant ecosystems is not the producer, historically the one most responsible, but that of consumers.  What we choose to buy and consume drives the world's economies and future.

Test Case

 Our  test case is this:
Given a choice between two Cabernet Sauvignons (or any other) rated between 90 and 100 by the world's best raters, how can a consumer who would like to assume stewardship responsibility for the environment know which winery produces wines using methods most likely to promote vibrant ecosystems into the imaginable future? Our underlying assumption in that if everything else is equal, most consumers will choose wine produced according to those ecological practices considered by scientists to do no harm to the environment and in the ideal situation, from a winery actively engaged in conservation, restoration, water capture and recycling, low or no chemical inputs, biodiversity and community engagement and education.

In the next posts the websites of wineries producing wines rated from 90-100 by Wine Spectator and Robert Parker are examined for their published information about environmental management goals,  practices, progress, and challenges.Because our focus is the fine-wine community, and because resources allow this population to choose wines from everywhere at a huge range of prices, we look at environmental profiles  from wineries world-wide with the overarching filter of having produced a wine rated 90 to 100.