If there’s one thing technology has done for the planet, it’s make it smaller, and less varied. For most of the world’s population, word spreads at the blink of an eye. Everyone in this modern, tech-savvy culture knew about the iPhone 5.
But what’s the price of this connectivity? If everyone across the globe is using the same phone, where’s the diversity? And that’s the price of homogeny—less diversity.
French winemakers are currently resisting the import into France of American wines that include ‘chateau’ on the label. On the surface, this may appear to be quibbling over semantics. But it’s not the case if you know something about French wines.
The French take the labeling of their wines very seriously. Not because they’re trying to be snooty about them or anything—it’s literally how you judge the quality of a bottle of wine in France.
Mis en bouteille au chateau.
It means bottled at the chateau. You’ll notice I use the word ‘chateau’ there instead of vintner or winemaker or something else. That’s because ‘chateau’ has a very specific meaning.
In France, many vineyards are on the estates of actual castles, or chateaux. For example, Château Margaux in Bordeaux (one of the most famous vintners on the planet) started making wines at least as far back as the Middle Ages.
The chateau itself dates back to as far as the 12th century, when it was a fortified keep. People have been talking about Margaux wines since the 15th century.
I could go on and on about Château Margaux and the complexities of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôléé (the French labeling system). But all you really need to know is that Château Margaux makes wines that get the ‘Mis en bouteille au chateau’ label, but they also make wines that don’t measure up to that label.
It’s all well and good that American estates are using ‘Chateau’ in their names to give them that Old World feel. But the French don’t want them being sold in France, where the ‘chateau’ labeling actually means something and causes confusion.
The French have spent hundreds of years cultivating their wines. With the old chateaux leading the way. Bottom line, there aren’t any chateaux in California, so it’s misleading to name the wine that, if you’re selling in France.
It’s like everyone having an iPhone. What if every vintner on the planet started calling themself a chateau? Pretty soon the label would lose meaning. And those hundreds of years of work in France will be for nothing. The French will lose a distinctive part of their culture. That’s the price of homogeny.